Posts tagged with Dinner

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.


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?


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?


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.


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


Cooking away the CSA, week 27: Salads for the whole family (including the kiddo)

A boy and his salad.

A boy and his salad. by Sarah Henning

My kid really does eat amazingly well for a pre-K child. I’ve discussed many times that he does a pretty good job, even if he’s just like any other kid in that he’d take cookies over carrots any time.

That said, if there’s one thing I’ve barely ever gotten him to try, it’s salad.

I’m sure most parents have this problem. In fact, I’m pretty sure if I had a salad before age 13, it was probably just iceberg lettuce drowning in Dorothy Lynch. Totally healthy, of course.

So, I’m not one to expect a 4-year-old to eat salad. Even mine, who, like I said, does a really good job of eating his fruits and vegetables.

Therefore, I was quite surprised when the kiddo wanted to make salad as part of his dinner this week, we were all for it. His version of salad? Sliced CSA cucumbers, carrots and celery. Not a single leafy green in sight, but I’ll take it. His quote, while making sure I tried it: “Don’t put dressing on it, Mommy, it’s delicious.” And it was.

Meanwhile, we made our own Mommy/Daddy salad using more goodies we got from Rolling Prairie last week: Roasted sweet potatoes over CSA salad greens, topped with CSA roasted peppers, garlic olive oil and a bit of Landeria goat cheese.

The roasted CSA peppers really made this one.

The roasted CSA peppers really made this one. by Sarah Henning

What’d we get this week? Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers

Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers.

Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers. by Sarah Henning


Cooking away the CSA, week 26: When seasons cross, and the dinners they bring

A salad for summer and fall.

A salad for summer and fall. by Sarah Henning

We’ve come to the time of year where winter squashes and tubers are sharing table space with tomatoes and cucumbers at local CSAs and the Lawrence Farmers' Market.

For instance, we got eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers last week from Rolling Prairie.

It seems totally odd, right? Even though these items share shelf space in the produce department of nearly every grocery store in America year-round.

Makes you think about our industrial food system a bit, eh?

And you know what? There’s nothing that says we can’t enjoy some of these summer-fall goodies in the same meal, or even in the same dish.

This week, I was so intent on achieving that goal that I made a salad that included not only roasted sweet potatoes but also tomatoes (yep) and delicate baby greens.Probably could’ve thrown some tat soi and cooked eggplant in there, too, if I’d had my wits about me.

Yes, it sounds strange, but if you find your kitchen full of these seemingly incompatible items, give this dish a try — if you can actually make the potatoes and not eat them all off the pan by themselves while waiting for them to cool enough not to wilt your lettuce.

I love sweet potato season.

I love sweet potato season. by Sarah Henning

Slightly Sweet Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 medium to large sweet potatoes, sliced into quarter-inch rounds, skin removed

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place sliced sweet potatoes on one to two cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper. Using a clean finger, rub a little coconut oil on the top side of each sweet potato slice. If you don’t use all the coconut oil, that’s OK.

Next, combine coconut sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle onto oiled potatoes.

Roast potatoes for 15 minutes. Flip. Roast for another 15 minutes or so until soft and browning.

Enjoy alone or on the salad below.

Mixed-Up Season Salad

Per salad:

Handful mixed salad greens

Handful cherry or grape tomatoes

¼ chopped avocado

5-6 roasted sweet potatoes (above) slices, halved and cooled

Throw all ingredients in a bowl. Cover with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or your favorite dressing. Enjoy.

This week's haul: Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and peppers.

This week's haul: Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and peppers. by Sarah Henning

What’d we get this week? Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peppers.


Cooking away the CSA, week 25: Eggplant lasagna, hold the noodles

Such a pretty eggplant.

Such a pretty eggplant. by Sarah Henning

We’re almost to the end of the CSA season. Not totally there yet, but we probably have a month to go if we’re super lucky. So sad.

But we’re enjoying it while we can.

And we totally enjoyed this week’s Rolling Prairie CSA cooking experiment, which was basically an eggplant parmesan and cheese lasagna combined into one minus the noodles, minus the parmesan.

Say what?

I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs that happened to use thinly cut eggplant as the noodles in a lasagna. It also included mushrooms and a sneaky bit of cauliflower in a way that I thought might entice the kiddo.

It took some work (I made it on a weekend night), but it was totally worth it and we had enough leftovers for two more dinners. Plus, not only did it use our CSA eggplant, but it used our CSA garlic from a few weeks ago and an onion and our mushrooms (plus more that we bought to make it work) from this week.

Thus, this one has all the markings of a new family favorite. The kiddo even tried a bite. Yay for small victories.

One finished serving.

One finished serving. by Sarah Henning

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagna (from

For the “noodles”:

1 large eggplant A splash of balsamic vinegar

For the “cauliflower ricotta”:

1 head cauliflower, or about 4-5 cups of florets

2 eggs

1/2 cup soft goat cheese (chevre)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper

For the mushroom “meat”:

1 teaspoon butter or coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

half of an onion, chopped

1 pound assorted mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and pepper

For Assembling:

A jar of your favorite marinara sauce

Goat mozzarella, shredded (we just used more chevre because we couldn’t find this)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then, like traditional lasagna, we must first prepare all of the layers.

For the noodles:

Using a mandolin, slice the eggplant lengthwise into thin strips. You may peel it first, if you like, but I took the easy route and left the skin on. Place the eggplant slices in a dish, and toss with a bit of balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice). Set aside to let marinate.

For the cauliflower ricotta:

Pulse the raw cauliflower florets in a food processor to make “rice.” Then steam, strain and squeeze out the excess moisture, leaving the cooked rice fairly dry. Transfer the strained cauliflower rice to a mixing bowl, and add in the two beaten eggs, goat cheese, oregano, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well, and set aside.

For the mushroom “meat” layer:

In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter or coconut oil and saute the garlic and chopped onions for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.

While the onions and garlic are cooking away, gently pulse the mushrooms in a food processor, until a “ground beef” like texture is achieved.

Add the ground mushrooms to the sauteed onions and garlic, and season with ground cumin, salt and pepper. Saute until tender. The mushrooms will release some moisture, so be sure to strain well after cooking, and set aside.

To Assemble:

Begin by adding a thin layer of marinara sauce to the bottom of your glass dish — this will prevent sticking.

Next, layer on the eggplant slices, followed by half of the cauliflower ricotta, followed by half of the mushroom meat, a drizzle of marinara sauce and a bit of shredded goat mozzarella.

Repeat the layers, then top it all off with a final layer of eggplant slices, topped with more marinara and shredded goat mozzarella.

A couple of layers...

A couple of layers... by Sarah Henning

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

The finished lasagna should be firm, with a crispy layer of cheese on top!

Slice and serve hot! Serves 8.

What’d we get this week? More eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers.


Cooking away the CSA, week 24: Becoming OK with okra

A bunch of chopped CSA okra.

A bunch of chopped CSA okra. by Sarah Henning

Er, so this column is called “Eat Your Vegetables,” but, I have a confession: There are a few vegetables that I’d rather not eat.

Oh, the scandal.

But I do try. And that’s part of the beauty of joining a CSA like Rolling Prairie: You have to try because you come home with a bunch of veggies, whether you like them or not.

Last week we got: Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens. And I bet you know exactly which veggie in that lineup isn’t a regular in my house.


I know plenty of people who love it. Heck, my parents live in the South and I see it around all the time when I go down there. But I didn’t grow up eating it (in Kansas) and have never really sought it out as an adult. Sometimes it’s in Indian food, and I’ll eat that, but make it at home? Not really my cup of tea.

But the great thing about having a CSA, besides fresh veggies every week, is that usually you don’t get to pick and choose, and sometimes have to just bite the bullet and try something you’d rather not have.

So, the hubby and I looked for a way to cook the okra as something we’d appreciate. The recipe we settled on used up not only our okra but a bunch of our CSA tomatoes and CSA garlic. Triple bonus!

It was really tasty, though we had to halve the recipe because we didn’t have enough okra. Still, it was something I’d definitely try again if okra ends up in my crisper.

Okra stew, served on a plate, because we were feeling daring.

Okra stew, served on a plate, because we were feeling daring. by Sarah Henning

Okra Stew with Tomatoes (“How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, halved and cut into thick slices

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound okra, trimmed

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

4 cups chopped tomato (we used fresh but canned works too)

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (optional)

Chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep skillet or large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and turning golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add the remaining oil to the pot and stir in the okra. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown a little, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring once or twice. Return the onion to the pot and add the tomato, along with a cup of water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles gently. Cook, stirring every once in a while, until the okra is very tender and the sauce has thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir in the oregano if you like, then taste and adjust the seasoning and serve, garnished with parsley.

What’d we get this week from Rolling Prairie? Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers.

Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers.

Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers. by Sarah Henning


Cooking away the CSA, week 23: Quick and seasonal side salad

Easy, no excuses salad.

Easy, no excuses salad. by Sarah Henning

If you've followed this column for a long time, you know that salad is always my default. It's my best friend at dinner and lunch, and my old stand-by when I have no idea what to make.

And even though I'm tight with the little green bowl of awesome, I'm well aware that I'm not in the majority. Homemade salads can seem like work. So many ingredients to have. So many things to chop. So much ... green.

I actually used to think the same thing. As in: If I didn't get my ingredients from a salad bar, I'd be chopping and prepping until my stomach pulled rank on me and sent me straight for the easy button (aka a sandwich, crackers, chocolate chips, etc.). Plus, I didn't really think it was a salad without certain things on hand, like store-bought dressing or tomatoes or (when I ate it) cheese.

But, over time, I've come to love the "kitchen sink" qualities of the dish. Really, once you figure out what you like in your salads, you can pretty much throw together one you'll enjoy without any planning (or thought) at all. Eventually, it becomes quicker than making anything else, and so satisfying that it's worth the wait if you have to do a bit of chopping.

This week's salad is a perfect example. It was totally thrown together at the last minute to go along with some leftover fajitas, but it was delicious, healthy and used up some of our delicious bounty from our Rolling Prairie CSA share.

Quick and Seasonal Side Salad

2 handfuls baby spinach

1 red bell pepper, chopped (from our CSA)

1 carrot, chopped

10 garlic-stuffed olives, chopped

1/4 cup almonds

Olive oil and lemon juice, drizzled on to taste

Divide all ingredients among two bowls. Enjoy. Serves 2.

What’d we get in our Rolling Prairie CSA this week? Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens.