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Posts tagged with Lunch

Tip-toe back into the kitchen with slow-cooker curry

Warm, hearty, easy. Perfect for the time post-Thanksgiving.

Warm, hearty, easy. Perfect for the time post-Thanksgiving. by Sarah Henning

My kitchen got some pretty heavy use over the holiday — before, during and after the holiday. Honestly, we needed to take a break from each other. The feeling was mutual (my poor oven).

To ease back into the kitchen, it seems only right to use my slow cooker. Easy for me. Easy for everything that’s still recovering from serving 10 people a week ago.

As you may have gathered by now, I’m a pretty big curry person. I’m also huge on eating seasonally, which is why almost everything you see in this space during the colder months tends to include some sort of gourd or tuber or root. Thus, it seemed completely appropriate (and painless) to feature a butternut squash slow cooker curry this week.

I’ve made a few different butternut squash curries in my slow cooker this season and this one is by far my favorite. I love the depth of flavor from the onion, garlic, chili paste and curry. And I love the simplicity: The hardest thing about it is peeling and chopping up the squash (seriously), but then everything else is as easy as pie. Well, eating pie. Not making it.

We tend to eat this alone with some Wheatfields bread or nothing at all, though feel free to go all traditional and have it over rice.

Savory Butternut Squash Slow Cooker Curry

1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 5 to 6 cups)

1 red onion, chopped

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced or pureed fresh ginger

1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste

4 teaspoons Thai red chili paste

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

2 teaspoons coconut sugar or brown sugar

1 cup boiling water

Lime juice (to taste)

In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add red onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 3 minutes, until onion is soft. Add curry and chili pastes and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk.

Transfer everything in the skillet into a slow cooker. Add in butternut squash, sugar, boiling water and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Turn on slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Serves 4.

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‘Baked’ sweet potatoes in the slow cooker

A "baked" sweet potato made in the slow cooker and topped with peppadew peppers and avocado.

A "baked" sweet potato made in the slow cooker and topped with peppadew peppers and avocado. by Sarah Henning

It’s hard for some people to imagine, but maternity leave isn’t just a 12-week staycation with a cute baby. It’s 12 weeks of barely any schedule, unpredictable amounts of sleep and never knowing when you’ll actually have time to do something.

Which means that I both have time and don’t have time right now to actually get in the kitchen and cook.

There are blocks of time where I could prep and cook a great meal. But the chances of a particular block of time like that being around an actual preferred eating time (breakfast, lunch or dinner) are slim to none. Try more like 5:30 a.m. or 2:15 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Not exactly ideal.

Plus, half the time I’ll either end up with an hour I didn’t know I was going to get (surprise!) or plan on time that’s not there (double surprise!).

Obviously, it’s sort of hard to time something in the kitchen if you have no idea if you’ll have to tend to a fussy baby in the middle of chopping things or right when you need to flip something in the oven. Thus, my cooking has been pretty much limited to weekends — not helpful when I want to make something fresh for lunch or dinner.

To make things easier, I’ve been trying tricks that I’ve heard about but never necessarily tried. Up first: the genius use of a slow cooker to “bake” sweet potatoes.

I heard about this cooking hack more than year ago, but I’d never actually decided to give it ago until I really, really needed it to work. Which is dumb, because all you have to do is wrap potatoes in foil and place them in your slow cooker. I have no idea why I waited so long.

Prep took about a minute. And four hours later, I had a blissfully perfect baked sweet potato, plus three more to have for leftovers during the work week, when eating lunch is usually a difficult, solo affair.

I know it sounds silly that it’s easier to have something cook for four hours than for 45 minutes, but if you’ve ever lived on the uneven terrain that is fresh parenthood, you’ll know exactly why this seems so much easier.

And if you haven’t or are long past that point? You’ll still love the “set it and forget it” easiness to this recipe.

“Baked” Potatoes A La Slow Cooker

3-4 medium sweet potatoes, skins washed

Wrap each sweet potato in foil. (No need to poke holes in the potatoes). Place the wrapped potatoes in a single layer in a slow cooker. (Mine can fit four, though some may only fit two or three.) Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Remove, split open and enjoy.

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A simple, hearty, handheld meal

Quick and easy dinner in the palm of your hand.

Quick and easy dinner in the palm of your hand. by Sarah Henning

Life with a new baby is always a lot harder than you’d think it would be, even when you’ve already been through the ringer as a new parent before. It’s kind of funny, actually, that an infant that sleeps for 20 hours a day could take up so much time, but they do, in all their adorable glory.

Since my baby girl arrived at the end of September, my days have been a whirlwind of making sure she’s fed and happy (and usually asleep), while trying to be a functioning adult. You know, the kind who has her stuff together and, therefore, can parent her other child and shower and do basic things like that.

Because of this, I’ve made exactly one in-depth meal since becoming a mom of two. And that was this week (butternut-apple soup — delightful). The rest of our dinners since we came home from the hospital have been a mixture of gifted meals from friends and neighbors (we’re so lucky!), takeout and slap-dash dishes like the one I’m about to share.

Not that there’s anything wrong with slap-dash dishes. Though sometimes it seems that anything that takes no time at all has to be unhealthy, that’s not the case. With a little planning and mise en place, a hearty meal can go from bare ingredients to your dinner table in five minutes or less, without the use of a microwave or overly processed ingredients.

In this case, I decided to use simple pita bread, fill it with veggies and then top it off with a bit of store-bought Mediterranean spread and Lebanese beans from the Lebanese Flower.

The result is easy, delicious and as quick to eat as it is to make — perfect for new moms or pretty much anyone.

Hearty Veggie Pita

Per serving:

1 pocket pita, sliced in half

Baby spinach

1/4 avocado

A few cherry tomatoes, quartered

Two spoonfuls of Lebanese beans, chickpeas or other beans of choice

Hummus or baba ghanoush

Spread hummus or baba ghanoush inside each half of pita pocket. Layer in spinach, tomato, avocado and beans. Chow down!

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A burrito in a casserole dish

The first casserole I think I've ever liked. In fact, I love it.

The first casserole I think I've ever liked. In fact, I love it. by Sarah Henning

Honestly, I hate casseroles.

I don’t know if it’s the word I don’t like or if I just had a gag reflex to tuna casserole as a child.

No idea.

I just know that most of the time when something is called a “casserole” I immediately get anxious and start trying to figure out which sides I might be able to fill up on instead.

And though even as an adult I still have a weirdness about casserole, I am extremely glad I got over it for a night and tried the following dish: Crowd-Pleasing Tex-Mex Casserole.

The second my hubby took his first bite, he immediately announced it to be possibly his new favorite dinner. And at my first bite, I happily agreed. Even the kiddo tried it and liked it (score).

Crowd pleasing, indeed!

Note: We made ours with leftover basmati rice from India Palace takeout. Starting with pre-cooked rice is definitely a huge time-saver on this one.

Crowd-Pleasing Tex-Mex Casserole

For the Tex-Mex spice blend:

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika or 1/2 teaspoon regular paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more as needed

1 1/4 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)

For the casserole:

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeño, seeded, if desired, and diced

Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices

1 cup tomato sauce or tomato puree

2 to 3 cups chopped kale leaves or baby spinach

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

3 cups cooked wild rice blend or brown rice

1/2 cup vegan shredded cheese such as Daiya (If you aren’t into fake cheese, just use Colby-Jack or omit it all together)

1 to 2 handfuls corn tortilla chips, crushed

Optional toppings:

Sliced green onions

Salsa

Avocado

Corn chips

Sour cream (regular or non-dairy)

Make the Tex-Mex spice blend: In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt and coriander (if using). Set aside.

Make the casserole: Preheat the oven to 375 F. Oil a large (4 to 5 quart) casserole dish.

In a large wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell peppers and jalapeño and saute for 7 to 8 minutes, until softened. Season with salt and black pepper.

Stir in the Tex-Mex spice blend, corn, diced tomatoes and their juices, tomato sauce, kale/spinach, beans, rice and 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese. Saute for a few minutes and season with more salt and black pepper, if desired.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the crushed chips over the casserole mixture along with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Uncover the casserole dish and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, until bubbly and lightly golden around the edges.

Scoop the casserole into bowls and add your desired toppings. Serves 6.

— Recipe from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon

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Turn a BLT into an addicting AST

The sandwich I've eaten for weeks on end. Don't judge me.

The sandwich I've eaten for weeks on end. Don't judge me. by Sarah Henning

Confession time: If you follow me on Twitter (@shhenning), you might already know that I’m pregnant. And probably going to have another kid just about any second now.

In any case, as most of you know, pregnancy often comes with its fair share of cravings. In fact, if you look back in these posts, you can tell I was having a major love affair with curry during my first trimester.

But in August, a new, forceful craving emerged: the BLT.

Which is funny because I haven’t had bacon in probably 20 years or more.

Though, it wasn’t the bacon I was craving, per se, it was the mixture of crusty bread, juicy tomatoes and mayo that I really, really wanted.

So I came up with my own twist on the BLT: The AST, otherwise known as the avocado, spinach and tomato sandwich.

I’ve had probably three a week since. Don’t judge me. The baby loves it. Apparently, she’s as much of a “rut” eater as I am.

Recipe note: I know that most people probably eat their BLTs on sandwich bread. I prefer a baguette because when combined with mayo, it reminds me of some truly great sandwiches I had while studying abroad in Spain in college. Even if you’re not a crusty bread person, I urge you to give it a go. You might just love the hard/soft combo of ingredients.

The AST (Avocado, Spinach and Tomato) Sandwich

Per sandwich:

1/3 to 1/2 crusty baguette (We used Wheatfields), sliced in half

1/2 large slicing tomato, preferably a Cherokee purple, Brandywine or beefsteak, sliced

Half an avocado, sliced

Handful baby spinach

Mayo, Vegenaise or other condiment of choice

Slather both halves of your baguette with mayo. Top with spinach leaves (stems removed). Place avocado slices on one half and the tomato slices on the other half. Smoosh together. Enjoy.

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CSA season is upon us!

Spring Soup with homemade veggie burgers.

Spring Soup with homemade veggie burgers. by Sarah Henning

It’s nearly May, and you know what that means, don’t you? CSA time!

For the past several years, I’ve been documenting how I use the CSA (community supported agriculture) box I get weekly through the spring, summer and fall from Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance. If you are new to the idea of CSAs, basically, you as a consumer make an agreement with a farm or group of farms to buy produce from them every week in a “share.” This means the farmers get guaranteed customers for a certain period of time and that as a buyer, you get fresh produce every week, usually at a slight discount.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved, in my opinion, but I’ve also done it for several years. If you’re newly signed up, it can actually be a bit daunting. Mostly because A: You have no or little control over which items you pick up each week; and B: Sometimes you have no idea what to do unfamiliar foods that can be part of the bounty (kohlrabi, anyone?).

Thus, in an effort to help keep all that local goodness from withering in your fridge (and mine), I’ve written for years about how I used my CSA box in hopes that it’ll help newbies and veterans alike use their produce and enjoy it.

That said, this CSA season, we’re going to try something a little different. Rather than writing about it each week, I’ll write monthly specifically about ideas for your bounty. Though I may write more frequently in the middle of the summer when we’re all drowning in tomatoes.

Fear not, there’s plenty of backlog in this blog for you to seek out if you need weekly inspiration. Just search and enjoy. Plus, this will allow me to write about gardening with kids, farmers market finds and other fun foodie things in the summer.

But, for those of you getting your first CSA box in the coming week or so, or who have overloaded at the farmers market with a bunch of pretty spring vegetables, I’ve got a great spring-y recipe for you to kick off the season.

My family signed up for my CSA’s “early bag,” which means we’ve been picking up local greens and other veggies for the past three weeks. And one of our favorite new recipes we’ve tried so far this season is from the cookbook I find the most helpful during the local growing season, Nancy O’Connor’s "Rolling Prairie Cookbook".

It’s a soup that helped us use up one of the hardest early veggies for me to finish: green onions. We enjoyed it with homemade veggie burgers, and it was the perfect addition.

Spring Soup

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 cups chopped green onions

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

6 to 7 cups water or vegetable broth (up to 1/2 cup of this can be dry white wine)

Several generous grinds black pepper

1 cup snow peas, sliced in half, on the diagonal (we used just regular peas)

1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked basmati rice (optional)

1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped green onions for garnish

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add green onions and ginger. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add soy sauce, water or broth and black pepper. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add snow peas. Simmer 1 to 2 more minutes. Serve immediately. A tablespoon or two of cooked white or brown basmati rice may be added to each serving if desired. Garnish with raw, chopped green onion. Serves 6.

— Recipe from "Rolling Prairie Cookbook" by Nancy O’Connor

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Cooking away the CSA, week 13: The best beets yet (you can’t beat ‘em)

Beet lunch salad. Delicious!

Beet lunch salad. Delicious! by Sarah Henning

A few weeks ago, Karrey Britt and I were discussing all the ways one could serve beets. One of the ways we discussed was roasting them a la my balsamic veggies. But another way I hadn't tried was one so simple it seemed like a bit of trickery: Baked beets, no oil.

Just aluminum foil packets and a 375-degree oven.

Supposedly (so said the Internet), you don't even have to peel them — the skins will just slip right off after they finish cooking and cool.

Seems too good to be true, right?

Well, when we received the most adorable little beets last week in our Rolling Prairie CSA, I decided to give it a go, figuring it might be the perfect method (if it worked) for them.

So, I washed them, ripped off their spindly ends and put them in their foil packets, oven set at 375.

Tiny beet packets.

Tiny beet packets. by Sarah Henning

After an hour, I pulled them out, let them cool, unwrapped them and let them cool some more. When they were room temperature, I grabbed a butter knife to coax the skin off.

And you know what? It worked like a charm.

Pretty roasted beets.

Pretty roasted beets. by Sarah Henning

What took me so long to try this, I'll never know. But this will probably be my new go-to way of cooking them.

I enjoyed them in a lunchbox salad of baby spinach, local blackberries from the Lawrence Farmers' Market, walnuts, cashew goat cheese and then topped it all with honey mustard dressing.

Delicious.

What's we get this week? Chard, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, green beans, yellow squash and cherry tomatoes.

This week's bounty. As you can see, the cherry tomatoes were gone in an instant.

This week's bounty. As you can see, the cherry tomatoes were gone in an instant. by Sarah Henning

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New Year’s goals have you hungry? Here’s help

Salad of mixed greens, curry tofu, picked red onions, raw red onions, peas, olives, marinated mushrooms, roasted veggies, carrots, raisins and balsamic dressing.

Salad of mixed greens, curry tofu, picked red onions, raw red onions, peas, olives, marinated mushrooms, roasted veggies, carrots, raisins and balsamic dressing. by Sarah Henning

If you started 2013 with the goal of eating better/more vegetables/more fruits/less junk/less processed food/less food in general, chances are that by now you've either settled in or seen your resolve take a nosedive.

It's impossible to tell on Jan. 1 which way the proverbial cookie might crumble (i.e. into the trash, or into your mouth), but you can always improve on what you've already done, even if all that qualifies is scampering backward into your old habits after a brief foray into "healthy eating."

And if you've survived this month with your healthy goals going strong, you may still have nagging thoughts about how you can keep it up. Maybe you've had a hard time converting your family, and thus, have been eating totally separate meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or maybe you're just fine at home, but when you're out on the town or at a party, your resolve crumbles (like said cookie). Or maybe you just can't get through the day without feeling hungry and wonder if it has to be that way forever.

Nope, no it doesn't. See, the thing is, no matter where you are in your journey to health, you should be in it for the long run. You've got this body and you need to take care of it, not abuse it with food or with suffering while feeling hungry/leftover/stressed over the vat of chips and salsa on the table.

We're talking about a lifestyle here. Like, for life. If you do it right, it should become second nature, not total torture.

And, being a lifestyle, it's probably good to know some tips and tricks, no?

Okay, so here's one that I've used the past few years and has saved me a lot of grief: I have a salad every day for lunch.

Yes, pretty much every single day. It's very rare for me to have something other than a salad and it usually means I'm not in control of the menu.

And, no, I'm not starving an hour later. And I'm not looking longingly at my co-workers' lunches. And I'm not eating the same old thing over and over again like some sad little animatron.

There's actually an art to making a salad that will fill you up and leave you feeling good about your work day: It's all about HEFT.

If you started your healthy eating regime at the beginning of January wondering how the heck anybody eats only salad for a meal, chances are the salad you're picturing is one of those tiny "dinner" salads made from iceberg lettuce, a sad tomato and croutons.

Let me tell you, that is not a dinner salad. And it's certainly not a lunch salad either. And, yes, if you eat something that small and lacking in nutrients, you will be hungry. For sure. And you'll probably wreck your good intentions with an especially expensive trip to the vending machine.

So, here's exactly how I have a salad every day without going hungry or crazy or succumbing to the vending machine:

This lunch salad includes mixed greens, roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash), marinated mushrooms, hummus, Italian peppers. olives, red onion and baked tofu.

This lunch salad includes mixed greens, roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash), marinated mushrooms, hummus, Italian peppers. olives, red onion and baked tofu. by Sarah Henning

Step 1: Store salad greens in the work fridge.

On Mondays, I will usually bring a 5-ounce tub of mixed greens or baby spinach, put my initials on the outside and keep it in the fridge at work. That way, I always have my salad base right there and waiting. I don't put anything else in there with them, so that they stay fresher longer. Just the greens, by themselves. And the 5-ounce tub is a good size not to be too obtrusive in a normal-size fridge. (If you only have a mini-fridge in the office, you might have to adjust these recommendations.)

Step 2: Make sure to have hearty toppings

Either brought from home or store-bought, make sure to have a large amount (as is almost as big a container as your salad greens) of salad toppings to use during the week. To keep your salads from being weak, make sure to include one of each of the following items:

Protein: I usually pick one type of bean (garbanzo, black or kidney) and then maybe a bit of tofu to supplement. On the salad at the top of the page, you can see I've used curried tofu as my protein of choice. If you eat meat, you could buy some shredded chicken, tuna or turkey for your salad.

Vegetables: This time of year, I usually either make or buy roasted vegetables to include in my daily salads. I like to mix up a variety, so it's not like I feel like I'm eating the same thing all the time. Top favorites right now: roasted squash, roasted yams, roasted carrots, roasted zucchini or yellow squash. I also like to always add red onion to my salads, and often peas or beets.

Something savory and something sweet: To get by without a lot of added flavor from dressing, I like to always include a few items with a lot of flavor to my salads. Often this means adding kalamata olives (savory) and pickled red onions (sweet). I'll also usually add black pepper, maybe nutritional yeast (which has a cheesy flavor) and raisins or apple juice-sweetened cranberries for some extra kick. Oh, and I've also really loved marinated mushrooms on my salads these days. They add a lot of flavor with little effort.

Step 3: Pick your dressing

Here's where you can easily change the flavor of your salad from day to day. Depending on my mood, I like to use hummus, salsa (pineapple/mango salsa fresca is especially good) or guac as my salad toppers. If I have enough roasted veggies on there, I can just kind of mash everything together and get a lot of texture for very little "dressing." If this isn't your cup of tea, you could just keep one or two salad dressings in the work fridge and alternate them, depending on your mood. The point is: Have something ready, and have an alternate so you aren't sick of it by day three.

Tips to make this easier:

Store a large salad bowl and fork in your desk at work. (You may want to bring this along with your salad greens the first time you try this method, naturally.) I say "large" because, remember, this is a meal. It's not supposed to be a puny salad. You want it to fill you up.

Buy some or all of the ingredients on Mondays. I take a trip to the store on my lunchbreak during my first workday of the week and stock up on items from the salad bar/hot bar. It's expensive, but if you break it down over five meals, it's actually not too bad.

Don't beat yourself up if you don't have salad for lunch. Honestly, I make sure to have salad for lunch not only because I like salad, but because that way I'm not as pressured to make sure I have one at dinner. I usually do, but sometimes I can't, or it's too cold, or I just want something else. And I don't feel guilty, because I've already gotten in a large serving of vegetables in the middle of the day.

So, there you have it. It's really not hard to make a salad for lunch every day. You can make it hearty, healthy and different, every day, just by varying toppings and doing a little planning at the beginning of the week.

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Kitchen sink chili, as unusual as it is tasty (and HOT)

Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts.

Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts. by Sarah Henning

It’s no secret that if you follow this blog, you know that this winter I’ve been digging the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts combination. Steamed or roasted, I love putting them on salads or veggie burgers or just eating them as is. Those two foods are basically “winter” to me right now.

So, I was excited to find a new way to eat them. A very unexpected way, for me, for sure: chili. Yes, the thought of Brussels sprouts in chili sounds strange (maybe not sweet potatoes, so much), but, I assure you that even if you hate Brussels, chances are you might like this recipe.

As Example A as to why this is, I give you my husband, who, though he HATES Brussels, actually chose to make this recipe. He knew we had pretty much everything on hand and that I’d probably like it and thought he’d take one for the team. But, as it turned out, he liked it. And I’ll tell you why: This chili is so saucy, you can’t even taste the Brussels. I’m serious. Everything is so spicy and smoky and delicious because of the adobo peppers, that we could’ve thrown cardboard in there and been none the wiser.

This description probably doesn’t make this chili sound appealing, but it is. Really. And I think that if you have someone in the house who isn’t the biggest yam/Brussels fan (including yourself), but you want to push them because you know they have awesome nutrient value, then try this recipe.

Also, a word of caution: The adobo sauce and peppers are what makes this recipe really work, but you might want to be careful if you aren’t too keen on spice. We only used two of the three peppers, and it was still nearly too hot for us. We’re not total wusses, but still.

Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 red onion, diced small

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed

2 teaspoons dried oregano

3 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped (we only used 2 and it was plenty spicy for us)

1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (2 average-size), peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces

12 ounces Brussels sprouts, quartered lengthwise (about 2 cups)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 cup water

1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 ½ cups)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

Freshly squeezed lime juice

In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, coriander seeds, and oregano, and saute for a minute more. Add the remaining ingredients (except the lime juice). Mix well. The sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts will be peeking out of the tomato sauce, but don’t worry, they will cook down.

Cover the pot and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for about half an hour, stirring often, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy. Squeeze in the lime juice to taste and adjust any other seasonings. Let the chili sit uncovered for at least 10 minutes before eating.

(Recipes from “Appetite for Reduction" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

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A post-holiday present to yourself: A pomegranate

Pomegranate breakfast bowl.

Pomegranate breakfast bowl. by Sarah Henning

If you're like me, you've got to restock to your fridge and pantry after the food explosion that is the holidays. My fridge has run the gamut over the past few days, going from empty-ish to stuffed to its frozen little gills to deflated and devoid of anything but leftovers.

If this sounds familiar, or if you're just planning your trip to the grocery store for the week, I highly recommend adding a pomegranate to your cart. This time of year, I can't get enough of these unusual superfruits. They're a great treat, and fantastic in nearly any application.

Back in November, I posted a Thanksgiving recipe for squash that featured pomegranate seeds. The seeds add a nice juiciness and crunch to that recipe, and they can do that to pretty much any other recipe you can dream up. Just this week, we had the seeds three different ways other than just eating them out of hand. Above is a breakfast bowl of 1 cup pomegranate seeds, 2 tablespoons pecans, 1 tablespoon hemp seeds and 1 teaspoon cacao nibs. While I was enjoying that, the hubby had pumpkin pancakes topped with the seeds.

Trader Joe's pumpkin pancakes topped with pomegranate seeds.

Trader Joe's pumpkin pancakes topped with pomegranate seeds. by Sarah Henning

But my favorite way this week is pairing the pomegranate seeds with squash yet again. This time, it's with kabocha squash we roasted in a spicy sauce and then used to top a simple salad. The result is as pretty as it is tasty.

Pomegranate and kabocha squash salad.

Pomegranate and kabocha squash salad. by Sarah Henning

But before we get to that recipe, a few details on the pomegranate, one of the world's oldest recorded fruits. One 4-inch pomegranate has 234 calories, 3 grams of fat, 11 grams of fiber (45 percent of your daily value), 5 grams of protein, 48 percent of your daily vitamin C and 5 percent of your daily iron.

Now to the really important information: How to open and seed the dang thing. The best way to seed a pomegranate is to plunge it underwater. Fill a mixing bowl with enough water that you can submerge your hands and the whole pomegranate. Next, cut the top off the fruit and score the outside into a few sections. Plunge the fruit into the water and then pull it apart along your score lines. Free the seeds with your thumbs and rub off the white pith. The pith will float and your seeds will sink. When all your seeds are free, rinse them in a colander to remove extra pith. Throw out any pale/strange-looking seeds along with the skin and the pith.

Pomegranate and Roasted Kabocha Squash Salad

1 large pomegranate or 2 small pomegranates, seeded

1 small kabocha squash, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch thick "C" shapes (no need to peel)

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons tamari

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne

Hummus

Pecans

Baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the squash pieces in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, tamari, cumin, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne. Pour the sauce mixture over the squash and stir to coat.

Put the coated slices on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn them over and bake for 15 more minutes.

When the squash is finished, put together salad bowls that include baby spinach, 2 to 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, 2 to 3 tablespoons hummus and 1 tablespoon pecans. Top with warm squash. Serves 4.

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