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Posts tagged with Recipes

Snobby Joes and the return of the CSA

Snobby Joes and steamed asparagus.

Snobby Joes and steamed asparagus. by Sarah Henning

Two blessed food events occurred within the past few days.

One: The Lawrence Farmers’ Market opened on Saturday.

Two: My first CSA pickup of the year was Monday.

Yes, local food is upon us. All winter I look forward to this week. To me, it means the start of many things: great local produce, warmer weather, sunshine and homegrown garden greens.

For those of you who are new to my blog, know that during the CSA season, the format changes slightly.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is basically a subscription service to a farm or a collective of farms. For the price of your subscription, you will get a weekly share (bag) of farm-produced foods. My particular CSA, Rolling Prairie, provides some choice in items (for example, picking between turnips and radishes), though not every CSA does this and because of availability, even the ones that do might not have a lot to choose from weekly.

I’ve written many stories about CSAs in Lawrence, including this one, which is somewhat of a who’s who of the major CSAs in and around Lawrence. If you’re interested in signing up, please visit the websites of the CSAs on that list and they’ll let you know if they’re still open to subscribers this season. Most don’t start deliveries until May (I’m participating in the “early bag” of my CSA), but you’ll need to sign up soon to get a spot.

Each week, I’ll tell you exactly what I made with my CSA bounty and then show you what I got in my bag and plan to use for the week ahead.

I do this because I’ve heard from several readers (and from personal experience) that finishing all the produce received in a weekly CSA can be difficult. The reasons for this are all over the map. Some of the more popular ones include: unfamiliarity with certain vegetables (kohlrabi, purslane), dislike of certain foods (turnips, radishes, mushrooms, certain greens), difficulty planning meals, not able to cook every night or new to cooking, feeling like you’ve got too much in your share, etc.

I’m hoping that in this space you’ll find ideas and inspiration so that you never have to throw out or compost a single item you pick up at your CSA this year, or at the farmers market (hey, we all overbuy sometimes). If you’d like to see what kind of posts you’ll get over the next 26 to 28 weeks, check out the end-of-season round-up I did of last year’s CSA action.

So, without further ado, here’s what I got in my first bag this week. If your CSA starts later, or you aren’t signed up for one, this is pretty good example of what you’d find at the Farmers' Market right now with one exception: spinach, green onions, salad mix, dried mushrooms and tofu (Central Soy's local tofu).

Dried mushrooms, spinach, green onions, tofu and salad greens.

Dried mushrooms, spinach, green onions, tofu and salad greens. by Sarah Henning

Now, for those of you who don’t care about all this CSA stuff and just want to know what that delicious-looking stuff next to the steamed asparagus is at the top of the page, I’ve got the recipe below. It’s a very simple and healthy recipe that uses lentils, onion and bell pepper to re-create the sloppy Joes of your youth (adulthood?). You’ll find it satisfying and easy and yummy on a roll if that’s what you like. I had some Wheatfield ciabatta on the side (not pictured).

Snobby Joes (from www.theppk.com)

1 cup uncooked green lentils

4 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

1 green pepper, diced small (we used red)

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

8 ounce-can tomato sauce

1/4 cup tomato paste

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

4 to 6 kaiser rolls or sesame buns (optional — for serving)

Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.

About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute more. Add the cooked lentils, the chili powder, oregano and salt and mix. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through. Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can’t wait.

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Spring, sweet spring, where are you?

Made-from-scratch black bean soup was perfect as the SPRING snow came down.

Made-from-scratch black bean soup was perfect as the SPRING snow came down. by Sarah Henning

I thought I was done with winter. You know, get out the gardening supplies, put the sweaters and boots away.

But, despite Punxsutawney Phil’s “forecast,” snow is on the ground, a chill is still in the air and that whole “out like a lamb” thing belongs in the same shaming hole as that groundhog.

Fabulous.

Not really, but what else can we do but throw the calendar out the window, grab a sweater and make soup? That’s exactly what we did this weekend, and, for a change, we made soup with dried beans.

Normally, we’re a tad too impatient to do the soaking routine, even though we know it’s better for us and cheaper, too. But, in an effort to spice things up, we decided to give it a go (we normally only manage to soak garbanzos), choosing a recipe we’d never made before that starts with dried beans so they’re a blank canvas.

And you know what? Soup made this way really did taste different than all the other soups we make with canned black beans. And by taste, I don’t mean “salt level” (I buy salt-free canned beans). The texture was different — sturdier, almost.

Now, I know this recipe looks long, but it really isn’t much of a hassle. Also of note: Make sure to include one or two of garnishes at the bottom, they really kick this soup up a notch or two.

Black Bean-Vegetable Soup (Recipe from “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Beans:

1 pound dried black beans, rinsed, soaked for 6 to 8 hours or overnight

6 cups water

2 bay leaves

Pinch of baking soda

Soup:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium-size onions, diced finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced finely (we used 1 cup of a frozen mix of red, yellow and green peppers)

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

1 stalk celery, diced finely

1 carrot, peeled and diced finely

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

3-4 cups vegetable stock

Garnishes for serving:

Lime wedges

Chopped avocado

Minced fresh cilantro

Prepare the beans: Drain the soaked beans, rinse again, and place the beans in a large stockpot. Pour in the 6 cups of water and add the bay leaves and baking soda. Cover and bring to a boil, boil for about 3 minutes, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the beans are tender and their skins are soft. Remove the bay leaves.

During the last 30 minutes of the beans’ cooking, prepare the vegetables. Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the oil until the garlic begins to sizzle, stir for 30 seconds and add the onions and bell pepper. Stir and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions and peppers are soft, then add the jalapeño, celery and carrot. Cook for another 10 minutes, until the carrot has begun to soften, then remove from the heat.

When the beans are completely tender, stir in the sauteed vegetables and any remaining oil, plus the cumin, oregano, thyme and vegetable stock. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, until the carrot and celery are tender.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool 10 minutes, add the vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Like most soups, this soup will be richer and more flavorful the next day.

Garnish each serving of soup with chopped cilantro and chopped avocado. Serve with lime wedges.

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Winter, meet summer: Spiced pepper and Brussels sprout fajitas

Spiced Pepper and Brussels' Sprout Fajitas.

Spiced Pepper and Brussels' Sprout Fajitas. by Sarah Henning

You may have noticed from reading this blog, but I really, really like Brussels sprouts.

And though I usually like to roast or steam them, I thought it was about time to try them a new way (rather than just pairing them with new foods when I get bored).

I was feeling a bit daring last week, and decided to pair a heavy summer favorite with this winter favorite of mine. The results were spectacular and super yummy.

Everyone, I'd like you to meet the my special winter fajitas: Spiced Pepper and Brussels' Sprout Fajitas.

Sounds weird, tastes great. If you're not a Brussels sprout fan (and I know probably half of you aren't), you can try it with fresh broccoli or cauliflower. You'd get nutrients from the same family, and a slightly more mild flavor.

Spiced Pepper and Brussels Sprout Fajitas

2 red bell peppers, chopped

1/2 large onion, chopped

8 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered

Fajita Seasoning Mix (below)

Olive oil

Black beans

Cheese (optional)

Salsa (optional)

Guacamole or avocado (optional)

Fajita-sized flour tortillas

Fajita Seasoning Mix

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Mix seasoning ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Throw your peppers, onion and Brussels into a saucepan or large skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Saute until the veggies are soft.

Next, add all the seasoning mix and add about a 1/4-1/2 cup water to the pan. Continue to saute until the sauce thickens and coats the veggies (this should take a few minutes).

Once the veggies are cool enough to eat, layer them into flour tortillas with black beans, avocado (or guac), salsa and other optional toppings. Enjoy!

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Finding inspiration for healthy eating on the Web

Chloe Coscarelli's Pad Thai (photo from www.chefchloe.com).

Chloe Coscarelli's Pad Thai (photo from www.chefchloe.com). by Sarah Henning

We all know that it can be expensive to just suddenly try something new in the kitchen. Maybe you found a kick-butt, dinner-party-friendly entree but you have nothing in your pantry for it. So, you have to go to the store, hunt down each aisle for a long list of ingredients and come home with $70 worth of spices, canned goods and ingredients you’ve never used and may never use again.

Yes, that’s expensive. Especially if you end up with a total dinner fail and have to put your tail between your legs and order pizza for a full dining room.

Double dinner fail.

But here’s the thing: If you’re new to healthy cooking or new to cooking in general, you’re going to have to buy stuff. You’re probably going to try new recipes, and those recipes will call for things you don’t have and it’ll get expensive. Or it’ll at least seem a bit daunting and like it’s expensive, even if it’s not.

And there are ways to make this sort of transition less painful. A few of the best (which you’ve probably heard before from me or someone else):

  1. Buy spices in bulk. Buy only a little, or exactly what you need (this goes for other dry goods like grains, nuts and seeds, too). That way you save yourself some dough, rather than buying a full bottle or box/bag of an ingredient.

  2. Buy vegetables from the freezer section. Fresh vegetables are very expensive, yes, especially this time of year. To offset some of the cost (and make it impossible for you to have it wilt and die in your crisper), buy some of your vegetables in the frozen foods section. Unlike canned vegetables, frozen veggies don’t have any added ingredients (aka salt) and they’re comparable in nutritional value to their fresh counterparts. You can’t buy everything frozen, and you wouldn't want to depending on what you’re making, but this trick should help you a bit in the beginning (and next winter).

  3. Make simple food. This is the biggest way to keep eating healthy from being expensive, in my humble opinion. If you make a dinner that has five ingredients, it might be inherently cheaper and easier than if you made a dinner with 18 ingredients. This isn’t always the case because five ingredients can be super pricey if they happen to be the right ones (grass-fed beef, high-quality cheese, medjool dates, anyone?). When browsing recipes, try to take into account not only flavor and health but also what you already have on hand and what you might need to buy to complete it.

Now that we’ve got that down, I’ll get to the real goal of this post: To help you get free resources besides this blog to help you eat better. And what’s better than resources on the Web? Nothing. There are so many free recipes and sites that it’s almost TOO much, if you know what I mean. So I figured I’d share some of my favorite blogs/easy, low-cost/healthy Web-based recipes. I’ll link to the recipes specifically, but I urge you to check out the whole site for some good advice and a chance to join a community.

I’ve scoured my resources to try to find the simplest (and hopefully cheapest) recipes from my favorite sites in hopes that they’ll be of help and inspiration. So, without further ado, five of the best:

Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie - http://kimberlysnyder.net/blog/ggs/

Kimberly is a celebrity nutritionist, which might turn some of you off, but if you just can’t get into the whole green smoothie crazy, you really should give her recipe a go before giving up all together.

Gena Hamshaw’s Sweet Potato Breakfast Salad with Almond Butter Protein Dressing - http://www.choosingraw.com/sweet-potato-breakfast-salad-with-almond-butter-protein-dressing/

Gena is a med school student and her blog is a fabulous resource for those who want to eat whole foods on a budget. She’s very good at explaining the nutrition in her recipes and the benefits of particular ingredients. And because she’s a student — with little money or time — she doesn’t ever really go crazy with outrageous or time-eating ingredients.

Chloe Coscarelli’s Pad Thai Noodles - http://chefchloe.com/entrees/pad-thai-noodles.html

Chloe has a really great cookbook and a resume that includes winning “Cupcake Wars” with a vegan cupcake (against non-vegans). She doesn’t have a ton of recipes on her site (though she’s got hundreds in her two cookbooks), but this version of pad thai hits all the requirements above. Plus, it’s probably the very simplest recipe for pad thai I’ve ever personally made this side of a pre-prepared box.

Terry Walters’ Crispy Roasted Chickpeas - http://terrywalters.net/2011/03/crispy-roasted-chickpeas/

I have two of Terry’s cookbooks and I love them. That said, my husband calls them “elitist” cookbooks because they tend to call for ingredients we never have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered through a giant shopping list just to make one of her recipes. That said, her basic recipes like this one are totally awesome. And I think her cookbooks are great for when you’ve been eating healthy for awhile and want to try something new and maybe a bit more challenging.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Ancho Lentil Tacos - http://www.theppk.com/2011/05/ancho-lentil-tacos/

It’s no secret that Isa is my very favorite recipe source. There’s a good reason for that: Her food tastes great and my husband will try any of her recipes at least once. She’s really great at making vegetable-centric food pop and her dishes are often amazing (I don’t think we’ve ever been disappointed). But many of her recipes do involve several ingredients, though most of the time that’s because her recipes often contain a lot of different spices or herbs. If you have a good spice cabinet (or are willing to use that buying in bulk trick I mentioned above), you’ll be good to try any of her recipes without any sweat off your brow.

Good luck and I hope you try the recipes listed and maybe get other good ideas at those sites.

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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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Warding off the chill with Crock-pot chili

Classic Black Bean and Veggie Chili.

Classic Black Bean and Veggie Chili. by Sarah Henning

Dang, it’s cold out there. It’s just so classic “Kansas” that we went from 60 degrees one day (Friday) to hovering around freezing the next. Boo.

By the time we’d been through that horrible temperature swing, we were all for breaking out the slow cooker on Sunday morning. We adapted a recipe that was supposed to be made on the stovetop by just dumping everything in the slow cooker and crossing our fingers that it turned out right.

It did and it was delicious. I totally recommend making this soup when you feel like you want some chili to ward off the chill. Enjoy!

Classic Black Bean and Veggie Chili

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 onion, diced small

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced small (We used an orange bell pepper)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, diced small

1 pound zucchini, cut into medium dice

1 cup corn, fresh or frozen (thaw first if frozen)

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

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

1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped (We didn’t use it)

2 teaspoons agave nectar (We used honey)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Put everything except the agave nectar and lime juice into a slow cooker. Cook, stirring occasionally, on high for five to six hours. When ready to serve, stir in agave/honey and lime. Serves six.

(Recipe adapted from “Appetite for Reduction,” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

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The benefits of hemp seed (No, it won’t make you high)

Hempy Winter Salad.

Hempy Winter Salad. by Sarah Henning

I often get asked why I use the ingredients I do in the original recipes you see in this space. Readers want to know if they really need coconut oil, goji berries, cacao nibs, etc., and other things that most folks don’t have on hand, to truly execute a specific recipe.

The answer?

You don’t really need these special items to enjoy any of my recipes. Substitutions are totally fine and work well. Olive oil can go in for the coconut oil, dried cranberries or raisins for the goji berries and chocolate chips for the cacao nibs.

But, you might be wondering, if substitutions work so well, why the heck don’t I use the easier-to-find ingredients in the first place? Why even bother to use these specialty items at all?

The answer, my friends, is nutritional diversity.

If we don’t seek out new foods, they almost never find us. And when they do they’re unwelcome, something usually barging in on us when we least want them, but when some well-meaning foodie is eager for you to give it a taste. (Sorry to my friends and family who’ve had me do this to them.)

We Americans are pretty darn predictable. Ask anybody what staples they buy each week, the answers can be pretty standard: Apples, bananas, carrots, bread, milk, cheese, etc. Occasionally, you’ll run into someone who might buy avocados every week, or kefir, or hummus. And, of course, there are those of us with special diets, who might deviate, too.

But the point is, that if you go into almost any freshly stocked kitchen in Lawrence and you’ll see the same sorts of foods over and over. We probably all have about 10 to 20 staples we buy week-in and week-out, no matter if we need them or not.

Which is both good for us and bad for us. Yes, it’s good that every week we buy bananas, because, hey, we all need potassium, but could we benefit from having a different fruit each morning with breakfast? Yes. Instead, you could have an Asian pear, pluot, black raspberries, persimmon, pomegranate seeds — the list goes on and on.

Each of those foods, while maybe not as high in potassium as your daily banana, are high in a variety of nutrients and have an untold number of antioxidants and phytochemicals that our bodies are just dying to absorb.

Add variety — even if it’s just one new food to your cart per week — and gain benefits without doing a major diet overhaul. You might even find a new food you really love.

So, I thought I might occasionally discuss the benefits of the more unusual ingredients that often show up in my recipes. I can talk about what you can sub out for them, but also what their individual benefits are and why you might want to add them to your pantry, counter or fridge.

The first ingredient to get this treatment is one that’s probably pretty misunderstood: Hemp seed.

Yes, it’s hemp as in that hemp. But it’s worth your time for a boatload of reasons.

Hemp Seed

Why would I want to use it? Hemp seeds are king when it comes to essential fatty acids. These little guys have both a copious amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are highly anti-inflammatory and usually missing from the standard American diet, and a special omega-6 fatty acid called GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) that is also highly anti-inflammatory. These fats are called “essential” because our bodies can’t manufacture them. We need to ingest them, and the way we currently eat, we’re horribly out of whack. It’s much easier to get omega-6 fatty acids in our diets (most nuts have them), but it’s much more difficult to get omega-3s. Our ratio should be something like 1 to 3, omega-3s to omega-6s, whereas most of us can be so poorly imbalanced that our ratios are more like 1 to 20.

Other benefits: While the good fats in hemp seed are a big reason to add them to your meals and smoothies, they’ve got many other positive characteristics. The seeds are also high in vitamin K and vitamin E, both of which are important for healthy blood. Plus, three tablespoons of hemp seeds gets you 11 grams of protein, 50 percent of your daily magnesium and phosphorus, 25 percent of your daily zinc, and 15 percent of your daily iron.

Uses: Sprinkle on salads, hot cereal or scoop into smoothies. The seeds have a nutty flavor that pairs well with sweet dried or fresh fruit.

Buying it: These days, you can find hemp seeds at many health food stores. Usually, you’ll find them vacuum-packed on a shelf or in the refrigerated section. It’s good to store them in the fridge or the freezer because essential fatty acids are more likely to go bad quickly. I tend to buy my hemp seeds in large three-pound bags online and then keep only a small amount in the fridge for daily use. The rest goes into the freezer, just to make sure I get my money’s worth. If you want to buy just a small amount to see if hemp seed’s for you, check out The Merc, 901 S. Iowa St., which has little tubs of hemp seed for sale in plastic containers in the refrigerated section.

Substitutions: Ground flaxseed, chia seed

Bonus question: Do the seeds contain THC? No. Reputable sellers of the seeds (Nutiva, Manitoba Harvest) test their seeds and hemp oil to make sure they don’t register any THC. Nor can you grow hemp with the seeds. To be sold in the United States, they can no longer be viable.

Now, a little recipe for you to use with your hemp seeds, should you choose to buy some.

Hempy Winter Salad

1 tablespoon hemp seed

Baby spinach or mixed greens

½ cup pomegranate seeds

¼ avocado, chopped

4 Brussels sprouts, de-stemmed and halved

5 garlic-stuffed (or plain) green olives, halved

¼ cup prepared quinoa (or brown rice, millet, couscous, etc.)

Coconut oil or olive oil, for roasting

Minced garlic to taste (I used ½ a teaspoon)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Rub the cut side of the Brussels sprouts with coconut or olive oil and roast on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping about halfway through.

When the Brussels sprouts are done, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mash together. Serves 1.

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Delicious Thai-inspired chili

Red Lentil Thai Chili on the left, a sampling of this month's Delicious/Nutritious yumminess on the right.

Red Lentil Thai Chili on the left, a sampling of this month's Delicious/Nutritious yumminess on the right. by Sarah Henning

Confession: I'm not a huge chili person.

Yeah, yeah, this is a major flaw of mine. I mean, I know people who love chili better than anything else when it comes to winter. Better than snowflakes, hot chocolate or an open fire. Me? Not so much. Heck, even back when I ate meat, it wasn't a favorite. When everyone else was so excited about having a pot of chili, I would just kind of be like, "Meh. Where's the bread."

That said, as of late I might have to change my tune, however so slightly. Because I think I've found THE chili for me.

This chili isn't your cowboy "chuck wagon" variety, but even if you like that, I think you'll dig this. It's hearty, chunky and has a great combination of flavors. Plus, it is amazingly cheap for the amount of food and nutrition you get when you make it. Sweet potatoes, red lentils, onion, bell pepper, beans and spices all play together nicely, don't cost much at all and have great healthy benefits.

Honestly, the hubby and I made it on a weekend and it's all I can do not to make it again, even after days and days of eating it.

My only regret with this chili is that I didn't take a better pic. I was hungry and eager to dig in! Check out the link to the original post to get an idea of just how awesomely pretty the soup is.

Note: We made this in our slow cooker on a Sunday. Check the comments on The PPK post if you want to do it that way. It's slower, but, boy, did the house smell good all afternoon.

Red Lentil Thai Chili

Olive oil (1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons, however much you feel like using)

1 large yellow onion, diced medium

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced medium

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, cut into ¾ inch chunks

1 cup dry red lentils

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups vegetable broth

2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

1 15-ounce can low fat coconut milk

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

½ cup fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish

Limes for garnish (optional)

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Saute onions and pepper in oil with a pinch of salt, for 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute more.

Add chili powder, sweet potatoes, lentils, salt and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. When lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are tender, add the remaining ingredients and heat through.

Taste for salt and seasoning, top with cilantro and lime and serve!

(Recipe from The PPK)

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A warming seasonal salad, both savory and sweet

Savory Sweet Potato and Cranberry Salad.

Savory Sweet Potato and Cranberry Salad. by Sarah Henning

As much as I love salad year round, coming home to a dark house and a cold salad isn't that fun this time of year. Yet, I don't want to miss out on the nutrition that a salad for dinner provides.

Thus, I've really been digging having "warm" salads these days.

I shared my "burger" salad a few weeks ago. It's awesome, but it's also not the only warm salad in my arsenal.

A single warm ingredient can winterize any salad, meaning, depending on the foods you like, your possibilities are endless. Plus, in my estimation, the warm ingredients usually soften the rest of the ingredients and provide texture and flavor, meaning you can probably skip the dressing all together.

The one I'm going to share today has a bunch of texture, flavor and tons of nutrition. This salad is a great source of vitamin A from the sweet potato and spinach, omega-3 fatty acids from the hemp seeds, vitamin B-12 from the nutritional yeast (which also adds a nice, cheesey flavor), while the avocado provides good monounsaturated fats and loads of vitamin E. And the cranberries bring a necessary sweetness plus a bit of fiber, iron and vitamin C.

Yeah, basically, it's a nutritional powerhouse in one bowl. And it's super tasty.

Savory Sweet Potato and Cranberry Salad

Handful baby spinach

1 small sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and steamed

1/2 avocado, chopped

Handful dried cranberries

1-2 tablespoons hemp seeds (or ground flax, if you prefer)

1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Pinch black pepper

Line a salad bowl with a bed of spinach, top with hot sweet potato, avocado, cranberries, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and pepper. Mash the sweet potato and avocado into the greens for a creamy, filling salad. Serves 1.

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A holiday cookie for your consideration: Healthy free-form buckeyes

My Healthy Free-Form Buckeyes taste amazing. Seriously. If you like the original, you MUST try these.

My Healthy Free-Form Buckeyes taste amazing. Seriously. If you like the original, you MUST try these. by Sarah Henning

Last week, I promised a holiday cookie recipe. And, boy, do I have one for you. It’s super tasty, extremely easy and about as healthy as a holiday cookie can be. Plus, it is reminiscent of a holiday favorite: the peanut butter-chocolate yumminess that is the “buckeye.”

Yes, buckeyes without the powdered sugar and butter, but with all the taste. (They’re Megan Stuke/Flying Fork approved, so yeah, they’re GOOD.)

Now, I’ll quit my yapping and cut to the recipe, because I’m sure you want to get started.

Healthy Free-Form Buckeyes

1 cup puffed kamut or brown-rice cereal (I used Arrowhead Mills Puffed Kamut)

½ cup smooth peanut butter (or other nut/seed butter)

½ cup pure maple syrup

½ cup chocolate chips

Cacao nibs (optional)

First, cover a cookie sheet in parchment or wax paper OR fill a mini-muffin pan with liners — you will be freezing your buckeyes either on the paper or liners, it’s up to you.

Next, in a food processor, mix together the maple syrup and peanut butter until smooth.

Before mixing.

Before mixing. by Sarah Henning

After mixing. (If you like those maple nut butters you can buy in the store, try making your own this way. You're welcome.)

After mixing. (If you like those maple nut butters you can buy in the store, try making your own this way. You're welcome.) by Sarah Henning

Add cereal and process, taking care to stop the machine and scrape down the sides when necessary. Process the dough until it gets to the “ball” stage.

The "ball stage" is when the dough in your food processor forms a rough ball as it goes round and round.

The "ball stage" is when the dough in your food processor forms a rough ball as it goes round and round. by Sarah Henning

Next, use a teaspoon to scoop out loose balls onto your parchment or into your mini-muffin liners.

Just the dough. My son ate three of these, chocolate be darned.

Just the dough. My son ate three of these, chocolate be darned. by Sarah Henning

Once all the dough has been used, pour your chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl or Pyrex and melt them in the microwave, going at 30-second intervals and then 15-second intervals as you get closer to all the chips being melted. Stir in between stints in the microwave. When your chips have all melted into a thick liquid, use a teaspoon to drizzle the chocolate on top of your buckeye balls. Top with cacao nibs if desired.

Ready to freeze!

Ready to freeze! by Sarah Henning

Next, put them in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. The chocolate should get hard, while the dough will stay chewy. Enjoy!

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