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Posts tagged with Dinner

The perfect pad thai

Homemade pad Thai, straight from the wok.

Homemade pad Thai, straight from the wok. by Sarah Henning

I’ve been a longtime lover of pad thai.

A connoisseur, really.

It’s one of my go-to treat foods after a marathon or ultramarathon. I’ve devoured it in probably every state I’ve ever visited. Honestly, if a restaurant has it on its menu, I’ll try it at least once, no matter where we are or what kind of restaurant it is.

Basically, the sweet and salty mixture is my idea of comfort food.

Thus, it was years ago that I first tried making it at home. I started using those pre-made kits you can buy of sauce and noodles.

But then I put on my big girl pants and started testing various recipes I found both online and in cookbooks. Some had a bazillion ingredients, including ones that are sometimes hard to find (aka fresh lemongrass). Others were so simple it seemed like the flavor might be lacking.

After years of trial and error, I’m happy to report that I finally have a favorite recipe.

Purists might balk in that this one doesn’t have the traditional fried egg and instead is full of veggies that aren’t typically part of the meal. That said, I can tell you that the combination of the sauce plus the noodles and the veggies is a totally perfect blend of taste and additional health benefits. And if you like the fried egg? Add it. Same goes for the mung beans often seen as part of a restaurant presentation.

Now, this makes a TON, but if you’re like me, you’ll keep going back to the wok for just a little more and just a little more until you really just need to stow away the leftovers, like, NOW.

Pea and Broccoli Pad Thai

14-ounce box of rice noodles

16-ounce bag frozen peas, defrosted

1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped

½ cup coconut palm sugar (You can sub brown sugar but it will be sweeter)

½ cup tamari

6 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Lime wedges, for garnish

Peanuts, for garnish

Boil rice noodles according to the package directions. When they’re draining, heat coconut oil in a wok or large sauté pan. Once the oil is melted, dump in peas and broccoli.

In a small bowl, whisk together coconut palm sugar, tamari and lime juice to create the pad thai sauce. Pour over the vegetables in the wok. Add in rice noodles and heat through.

Serve warm. Garnish with lime wedges and peanuts. Serves 6 to 8.

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Dreaming of June with beets

Can't hardly wait until these are local beets...stupid winter.

Can't hardly wait until these are local beets...stupid winter. by Sarah Henning

I’ve been in the mood for beets lately. Like lots and lots of beets. Maybe it’s just my appetite’s way trying to get me to think warm thoughts. You know, because the local beet crop will kick in in June.

Ah, June.

Do you guys remember what June feels like? All warm and sunny and pretty?

Very much unlike what’s going on right now, unfortunately.

Luckily, roasted beets are earthy and hearty in ways that make them especially delicious in the dead of winter. Sometimes, I just eat them straight. Sometimes I roast them with other vegetables and a balsamic dressing. But lately, I’ve been roasting them without oil, letting them cool and then tossing them into salads. (For the roasting, I’ve been using this method I mentioned back when local beets were a thing.)

I usually like to have my roasted salad beets with other root vegetables like sweet potatoes. But one night when we were out of sweet potatoes (oh, the horror), I made a salad from a few random things we had on hand for the kiddo’s dinner.

I believe we paired this with leftover spaghetti squash (which clearly wasn’t memorable enough for me to photograph), and the dinner as a whole was hearty, delicious and extra healthy thanks to all the good extras the beets added to the show.

Beet and Spinach Side Salad

1 cup roasted beets, chopped

Hilary’s Eat Well mini veggie burgers (I posted about them here)

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced (optional)

Baby spinach

Olive oil and balsamic to taste

Bake the veggie burgers about 400 degrees for 18 minutes on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Divide spinach and beets among two bowls. Top each bowl with burgers (pulled into quarters), egg slices, if using, olive oil and balsamic vinegar or dressing of your choice. Enjoy.

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Mini polenta pizzas a quick alternative to the real thing

Polenta, topped with pizza implements, and served alongside sauteed Brussels sprouts.

Polenta, topped with pizza implements, and served alongside sauteed Brussels sprouts. by Sarah Henning

A few weeks ago, I wrote about National Pizza Day. And while our family loves making homemade pizza so much that we probably do it once a week, sometimes you just don’t have the time to do it.

I mean, if we don’t give the dough time to rise, it won’t be good. And, sure, we have often grabbed a ball of dough from 715 when times are tight, but we can’t do that all the time. And I’m not about to buy store-bought pizza crusts. That just isn’t my style.

A shortcut we’ve been trying? Polenta.

Long ago, when the kiddo was a baby, we’d made pizza with polenta. But we hadn’t done it in years. And as with most things that get out of the rotation, it’s so easy to forget how tasty and easy it was.

And it is. Long ago, we’d slice up the polenta into rounds of similar thickness (1/4 inch), arrange them together on a cookie sheet in the rough shape of a circle, pour on the sauce and cheese and bake it for 10 minutes.

But, because the kiddo is sooooo big on making things himself, this time we arranged the rounds like cookies on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and let him dress five rounds himself, just like he wanted. Then, we dressed the rest. It was a little more time-intensive but worth it. And rave-worthy, if the fact that we’ve had it twice in two weeks is any indication.

One night, I served them with sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts (above) and another with sweet potatoes. The result is something hearty and a little out of the ordinary, but “normal” enough that our 5-year-old accepted it without a challenge.

Mini Polenta Pizzas

1 tube polenta, any flavor

Pizza or marinara sauce

Cheese (we used goat cheese)

Toppings (we sauteed bell pepper, mushrooms and onion in olive oil and balsamic and topped the pizzas after they came out of the oven).

Set oven to 375 degrees. Cut tube of polenta into similar-thickness rounds, about 1/4 of an inch, and arrange in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Top with desired toppings. Bake for about 10 minutes. Serve warm.

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Eat Your Veggies: National Pizza Day

Not bad for last-second pizza.

Not bad for last-second pizza. by Sarah Henning

Sunday was National Pizza Day—something I didn’t know a thing about until various types of social media informed me. Thank goodness for Twitter, am I right?

Needless to say, my pizza-loving family was happy to abandon our previous meal plan and make pizza. About the time we decided to do this, it was snowing. As we know, that ended soon, but before the snow stopped, the hubby and I decided that we'd make our observance of National Pizza Day a bit more exciting by using only what we had on hand.

Meaning, no runs to the store for more toppings/cheese/sauce.

We already had the flour and olive oil for our typical dough, plus some leftover cheese and sauce from our last pizza-making expedition. But toppings were a complete toss up.

I’d gone grocery shopping the day before, but not specifically for pizza. Thus, we ended up using bits of what I’d already bought as toppings, namely: crimini mushrooms, red onion, red pepper and avocado. Add in some already-opened garlic olives and peppadew peppers and we had dinner.

Thus, below in order are our National Pizza Day 2014 pizzas…

The kiddo’s—cheese sans sauce:

Just cheese and bread, please, Mom.

Just cheese and bread, please, Mom. by Sarah Henning

The hubby’s—cheese with red pepper, red onion and mushrooms

More traditional pizza: Red sauce, cheese, red pepper, red onion and mushrooms.

More traditional pizza: Red sauce, cheese, red pepper, red onion and mushrooms. by Sarah Henning

And my lactose-free concoction: baba ghanoush (no hummus in the fridge!), red onion, mushrooms, garlic-stuffed olives, peppadew peppers and avocado (added after cooking)

My weirdo concoction that really was delicious.

My weirdo concoction that really was delicious. by Sarah Henning

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Inspiration on ice

The kiddo (and the rest of the family) gobble these up. Twenty minutes in the oven and they're ready to go.

The kiddo (and the rest of the family) gobble these up. Twenty minutes in the oven and they're ready to go. by Sarah Henning

Last week, I wrote about the little things you could do to help make it toward your goal of eating better in the new year.

This week, inspired by the crazy cold temperatures, I thought I’d continue this January pep talk with my top three frozen helpers. You know, the foods that are real and reliable and readily available (how’s that for alliteration?) and help me make sure my family gets the healthiest foods possible with the least amount of hassle.

Now, I prefer fresh foods. Fresh fruits, veggies and unaltered ingredients, all without processing. However, because I’m a working mom, there is no way in heck that I can buy only those things week in and week out and manage to A. Use it all before it goes bad B. Do anything but cook to keep on top of it.

I do rely on some frozen items. And before you ask, I prefer frozen to canned because there often aren’t added ingredients (e.g. salt) and I don’t have to worry whether or not the can might be lined with BPA. Of course, if the power goes out, I lose money, but to me, it’s worth it in the end.

  1. Frozen fruits and vegetables: Whenever freezer section berries and veggies are on sale, I load up. Blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, cherries, strawberries, etc., plus every kind of vegetables available. All the berries are great in smoothies, homemade sorbet and crumbles, while all the vegetables work well in stir-fries and slow-cooker recipes. Also, all work just fine eaten all by their lonesome (they’re mushy but hey, they’re healthy.) Note: Make sure to choose berries without added sugar.

  2. Hilary’s Eat Well Mini Veggie Burgers: I used to love to go to Local Burger and buy the regular-sized veggie burgers there in bulk. Now, not only can you get the big ones, but little kid-sized mini ones, too. The kiddo prefers the tiny ones and I love that not only do I know there are no ingredients I don’t want in them, but I know (and have interviewed many times) the person who created them, Hilary Brown (and no, I wasn’t paid to say anything about these).

  3. Pizza dough: OK, so I make the pizza dough and then freeze it. It’s easy to make, saves lots of money, freezes well and then you can make super healthy pizza with ease. And yes, I do believe homemade pizza is worlds better for you than the frozen kind (which is usually rife with salt, extra fat and chemicals you won't use if you make it at home). Use this recipe, divide it in half and you've got two pizza-sized balls of dough at the ready. Stick the dough in a plastic bag and freeze. All you have to do is remember to put the ball of dough out on the counter before you leave for work in the morning.

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Sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes as far as the eye can see (and what to do about it)

Sweet potatoes ... again.

Sweet potatoes ... again. by Sarah Henning

If you’ve been following this space for some time now, you will have noticed that I'm a seasonal eater, probably to a fault.

I’ve probably averaged a sweet potato per day since they started showing up locally months ago. Which means right about now is when my husband glares at the potato peeler with the sort of disdain he usually reserves for turnips and parsnips.

“So, this is when you make me hate sweet potatoes,” is what he said the other night.

Yep, I run those spuds and other cold weather delights—butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, etc.—into the ground for months. And months.

But seasonal goodies are too healthy and too cheap not to enjoy until the prices shoot up and the selection peters out.

My guess is, even if you’re hard core about trying to eat with the calendar, you get a little worn out of your faves after a few months, too. Totally understandable. Hey, it even happens to me sometimes (though, as I’ve discussed before, I’m a rut person. Repeat meals do not bother me).

So, I’ve been trying to think of ways of spicing up that favorite seasonal spud. My top pairings for punching up those everyday yams:

  1. Sriracha. Everything tastes better with a dash of the red stuff. This is a personal favorite of my husband’s. He uses the spicy sauce on pretty much any vegetable that he doesn’t like or is sick of eating.

  2. Cinnamon-flavored almond butter. Yes, this sounds weird. But I came to love the yam/flavored almond butter combo last year. If you have cinnamon or maple-flavored almond butter lying around, drizzle a bit on a potato. You could also add a hint of maple syrup, just to make it extra sweet. It’s kind of like pie in a bowl.

  3. Cumin. Like Sriracha, cumin will add punch to pretty much anything. Sprinkle it while your potatoes are still warm, but use a VERY light hand. You can always add more, but too much is really hard to undo.

  4. Hummus. I love adding hummus and a tad of Dijon to salads I made from baby spinach, roasted sweet potatoes and a bit of avocado.

  5. Use it as a base. As I mentioned the other week, sweet potatoes make a great, hearty base for stew-y things like curry, Indian food, even just regular old vegetable soup.

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Meal planning for dummies (or just those who forget how to because of CSA season)

I’m officially in CSA withdrawal.

For half the year, I get fresh vegetables every Monday whether I want them or not.

Pretty much all the time I want those bags of surprise vegetables, but when the little “planner” piece of me rears its ugly head and wants to know what’ll be in the fridge each week, I do sometimes wish I had a little more control for half the year.

With my CSA, Rolling Prairie, I only have a general idea of what we’re getting each week, usually loosely based on what I saw at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market the weekend before and sometimes through an email sent out each collection day. Not exactly helpful in meal planning.

And it’s so easy to get used to NOT meal planning. So much so that when I have full control over 100 percent of the food that I buy in a given week, I have no idea what I’m doing and I miss going to the store four times a week to pick up odds and ends for whatever I decide to make.

Now, with the CSA over and Thanksgiving behind us, I’m trying to get in the swing of actual, honest-to-God meal planning again. Something I was craving in July, but is so strange now.

Here’s how I’m easing into it. I’m explaining my process because I know it’ll just get out of whack again in a few weeks with the holidays and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way and want a simple starting point then, too.

My plan: Buy for two meals and only two meals.

Our cooking days, most of the time, are Sunday and Tuesday. So, I pick recipes (like our Butternut Squash and Black Bean Burritos) that I know make enough for leftovers. We make one meal Sunday night, have the leftovers Monday, make another Tuesday night and have the leftovers Wednesday or Thursday, depending on our family schedule for the week. We also usually cook Saturday and Sunday night, too, but that’s a little more fluid and less convenience-based because we don’t necessarily need leftovers, so sometimes we try a new recipe.

It isn’t a perfect system and sometimes ends with all of us staring at each other, trying to decide what to eat or what to order, but, for the most part, this seems to work wonders for us this time of year.

Do you plan your meals? If so, what’s your method?

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Cooking away the CSA: 2013 best recipes recap

Fruit on salad was a big hit this CSA season.

Fruit on salad was a big hit this CSA season. by Sarah Henning

To start things off, let me just say that 2013 was a pretty darn good year to be a member of one of the many CSAs in the Lawrence area.

Unlike the past two summers, which were so hot things couldn’t grow, this one was varied enough that nearly every crop seemed to thrive, or at least produce a little bit.

When you’re buying a weekly share from a farm or a collective of farms like the one I subscribe to, Rolling Prairie, that sort of variety is exactly what you’re looking for.

Because we had such great weather, this year we received everything from okra to tat soi to melons to mushrooms from our CSA at various parts in of the season, which started in late spring and roared through October.

Just as I did last year, I tried to find my favorite recipes of this season.

It was tough to pick, but I went for a top five (in no particular order) plus two bonus cookie recipes I threw in during the season just to shake things up. The recipes range from a delicious double squash dish to an eggplant lasagna that was a lot of work but totally worth it.

Honestly, though they are things I made during the spring, summer and fall of 2013, I'm pretty sure they could be satisfying year-round.

Fruity Starter Salad

Pizza-Tinged Mushrooms

Lasagna made with eggplant as the noodles was totally worth every minute spent in the kitchen.

Lasagna made with eggplant as the noodles was totally worth every minute spent in the kitchen. by Sarah Henning

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagna

Roasted Beets

Double Squash Skillet

Bonus cookie recipes:

Local honey works perfectly in these flourless peanut butter cookies.

Local honey works perfectly in these flourless peanut butter cookies. by Sarah Henning

Honeyed Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

What was the recipe that became your favorite over the 2013 CSA season?

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Cooking away the CSA, week 30: Leeks and onions, oh my

Leeks and green onions have cancer-fighting properties and taste delicious.

Leeks and green onions have cancer-fighting properties and taste delicious. by Sarah Henning

This past week was officially the last week of our CSA season. Though, because you’ll have to pry my fresh, local vegetables out of my cold, dead hands, it’s actually not the last week for us.

Rolling Prairie has a “late” bag and we’re signed up. Meaning, we’ll be getting veggies until Thanksgiving.

But, because I know most of you who come to this space for CSA cooking inspiration are finished, we’ll be moving on to your regularly scheduled program of recipes and cooking inspiration for the remainder of the fall, winter and part of spring. That is, after this blog and next week’s which will be a roundup of our favorite recipes from the 2013 CSA season.

So, how’d we use our “last” week of Rolling Prairie produce for 2013? We made a twist on something we’ve been making all summer: spaghetti squash topped with delicious sauteed items.

Last week we got eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale. The leeks and green onions were perfect for dressing our spaghetti squash, so we did that while snacking on cherry tomatoes.

The results were really, really tasty.

Green Onion and Leek Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash

2-3 green onions, chopped

2-3 leeks, chopped

1-2 bell peppers, chopped

1 tablespoon oil for the frying pan, plus a little to rub on the squash (we used coconut oil)

Marinara, as needed

Cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve your spaghetti squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and rub a little oil on the cut side. Place cut side down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until the squash is soft and ready to be scraped into noodles with a fork.

Once the spaghetti squash has finished in the oven, heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan/skillet/wok.

Add green onions and leeks, stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peppers and stir until they’re heated through.

Split spaghetti squash into serving bowls, top with onion-leek-pepper mixture, marinara sauce and cheese, if using. Enjoy. Serves: 4.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 28: Soup and salad

Don't go, leafy greens! Don't go!

Don't go, leafy greens! Don't go! by Sarah Henning

Last week, I hit the major personal parenting goal of getting the kiddo to eat salad. It was marvelous.

While I basked in the glow of that achievement for the rest of the following week, I also tried to recreate it. And I did. Multiple dinner times in a row.

Because, even though it finally got cold enough to turn on the heat, I really don’t want to believe summer’s over.

My strategy for this? Salads for everyone! All the time! Salad, salad and more salad.

I might be in denial.

So, anyway, my possible denial turned into a soup and salad night, using nearly all local ingredients.

We made our favorite butternut squash and apple soup using Rolling Prairie CSA squash and local apples from the Lawrence Farmers’ Market and then pieced together a delicious salad using delicate CSA salad greens plus local clover sprouts.

It was a delicious pairing, even if those lovely greens are about to go on hiatus.

Straight-Forward Seasonal Salad

Per each salad:

Two handfuls microgreens/baby salad mix

Several slices cucumber

Handful chopped carrots

10 olives

10 almonds

Sprouts (to taste)

Balsamic vinegar (to taste)

Mix all the ingredients together and serve.

What’d we get this week? One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant.

One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant.

One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant. by Sarah Henning

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