Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”

Roasted cauliflower and a New Year’s pep talk

In just hours, 2015 will be upon us. Time for a fresh start, no matter what that start might entail.

If you are planning on eating right in the new year, you’re probably poring over recipes (hello, Pinterest!), trying to figure out what eat — a tough task that can end in a massive collection of pins and bookmarked pages and still nothing specific for dinner.

Here’s a gentle suggestion: Stick to real food and dishes that only use a handful of ingredients. You can make those 20-ingredient Pinterest masterpieces in a few weeks. Right now, focus on the basics: Whole foods, mostly plants, nothing processed.

For me, that is the very definition of eating right.

I’m always trying to be as kind to my body as possible by giving it foods that don’t come in a package, are as minimally refined as possible and that don’t create havoc with crazy highs and lows. “Trying” is the operative word there: Nobody is perfect, no matter what’s on their Pinterest page or Instagram account.

Now, for those of you who have a resolution to attend to, I want to share this delicious side dish. Cauliflower has superb antioxidant activity, and coconut oil is full of good fats, aka the kind your body needs to stay healthy, not the kind that will kill your good efforts. Serve it alongside a healthy soup, salad or protein and give yourself a pat on the back for progress, not perfection.

Happy New Year!

Fragrant, warm and delicious, this roasted cauliflower is perfect for freezing winter days.

Fragrant, warm and delicious, this roasted cauliflower is perfect for freezing winter days. by Sarah Henning

Garlic-Cumin Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 F. Put the cauliflower in a medium bowl. Mix in coconut oil until the cauliflower is coated. Add in garlic and cumin. Stir again to coat.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the cauliflower out on to the baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Cover the sheet with aluminum foil.

Bake for 15 minutes covered in foil. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2.


Healthy homemade holiday pancakes

Each year on Christmas morning, my family always, always, always has a big breakfast.

Homemade scones. Omelet casserole. A enormous bowl of fruit salad. Mom-mixed hot chocolate. Lemon poppy seed bread.

It’s a spread. And it’s something my parents have been doing for decades.

To me, the act of eating breakfast is almost often more memorable than the annual present exchange. Maybe this is because I associate these foods with Christmas and have a hard time believing it’s Christmas Day without the presence of a Plain Jane Scottish scone. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a delicious memory. Whatever the reason, a large breakfast is Christmas to me.

This year, there will be scones, yes. And fruit salad. But we’ve decided to diverge a bit with our entree and go with our son’s Sunday morning favorite: pancakes. But pancakes with a twist.

We don’t make your basic, dry-as-a-bone Bisquick pancakes. Oh, no. Homemade is definitely the way to go. And it’s worth it every single Sunday.

If you’ve never made homemade pancakes, they’re easy to do and taste delicious.

And these pancakes are hearty and mildly sweet thanks to the addition of a banana to the batter. In fact, these suckers are so good, I’ve been known to eat leftover pancakes cold while standing in the kitchen minutes before hitting the hay for the night. OK, maybe I did that once. Usually, there aren’t any leftovers.

For an extra bit of holiday fun, I’ve also included instructions on how to make these into Christmas-specific pancakes using cookie cutters.

Try these on Christmas morning. You won't even need a trip to the store.

Try these on Christmas morning. You won't even need a trip to the store. by Sarah Henning

Homemade Banana Holiday Pancakes

2 1/2 cups flour

1 small banana or half a large banana

2 cups hemp milk (can sub in almond or skim milk)

2 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

Coconut oil (If you don't have coconut oil, don't make a special trip to the store, just use vegetable oil)

In a small bowl, mash the banana and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle and fill with the mashed banana and milk of choice. Stir together until just mixed.

Heat a tablespoon or so of coconut oil in a skillet. Pour pancake batter into the skillet, making the pancakes about the size of a fist. Flip when just brown.

Let pancakes rest on a large plate as you finish up with the dough. When all the dough has been used, cut the pancakes into fun shapes using holiday cookie cutters, starting with the coolest pancakes first.

Top with real maple syrup and festive fruit toppings like pomegranate seeds, clementine sections or sliced bananas. Serves three to four.

Tip: Save back the extra bits of pancakes and serve the next day torn into pieces for a bit of post-holiday “pancake” cereal. Just put the pieces in a bowl and top with maple syrup and enjoy.


A minty fresh treat for the late December days

It’s funny to me how each one of us associates this time of year with a certain “holidays-only” flavor.

For some, it might be eggnog. Or fruitcake. Or chestnuts.

And then there are the secondary flavors — ones that we might enjoy more this time of year than we would in any other month, even though they aren’t a December exclusive.

As we rush upon the winter solstice, I don’t tend to crave a “holidays-only” flavor, but one lumped into the secondary category. The kind that can be enjoyed in the heat of summer, but somehow represents the holidays to me and probably many others: mint.

This is probably related to the fact that when I was young, my mother made pinwheel cookies as part of her massive yearly holiday bake-a-thon. If I shut my eyes, I can easily taste the sweet, minty flavor imbued within those pink and white swirls.

Yep, those cookies are Christmas to me. And they aren’t even my favorite Christmas cookie. (That would be my mom’s chocolate-pecan squares. YUM.)

And I wanted those pinwheels this week. But because making a huge batch of cookies just to enjoy a tiny taste of one seems to be a fool’s errand (you know I’ll eat the whole dang flotilla of cookies), I decided to try to slay my craving with something a little lighter. You know, a treat that can rotate in with all that heavy holiday party fare.

The result is this pretty green smoothie. Packed with good fats, vitamin A and taste, it’s got that wintery fresh flavor that is just as welcome this time of year as the dense foods we also associate with December. But don’t drink it with a slice of fruitcake. That can only end badly — dried fruit plus mint? Yuck.

Thick and cool, this smoothie rotates in nicely with the heavier foods we see this time of year.

Thick and cool, this smoothie rotates in nicely with the heavier foods we see this time of year. by Sarah Henning

Mistletoe Mint Smoothie

1 1/2 cups hemp, almond or regular milk

1 avocado, halved

2 handfuls spinach

1 or 2 tablespoons honey (to taste)

6 to 8 mint leaves

Dash mint extract

Dash vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in the blender. Makes one large serving or two small ones.


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.


A holiday week snack perfect for the kiddos

Happy Thanksgiving week, friends. I hope everyone is warm and cozy and gearing up to devour some delicious seasonal treats on the big day (and then for a few days thereafter).

Last week, I shared an easy and tasty side dish perfect for bringing to dinner or adding to your own menu. This week, I've decided I’d share a recipe geared more to those inevitable holiday hours when everyone is around the house, looking for something fun to do, and trying to avoid eating all of the special Turkey Day food (both before and after the day itself).

Therefore, I present the perfect, healthy, kid-friendly snack for this holiday week (and the ones we’ll have in December): Tea-Time Banana Sandwiches.

These are easy, require no special equipment, and, by design, they include ingredients you probably already have around the house: bananas, peanut butter and chocolate. Because, if there’s one thing that’s no fun, it’s heading to the store for a single ingredient during the holiday rush.

Make a few with your kids while you enjoy the holiday hours together, and then make them again over winter break in a few weeks. They’re messy and won’t impress guests, but they’re good fun for the kids and the grownups, and they double as a not-so-bad cabin fever snack.

They're not pretty, but they're kid's play for children and grownups alike and require no special equipment to make.

They're not pretty, but they're kid's play for children and grownups alike and require no special equipment to make. by Sarah Henning

Tea-Time Banana Sandwiches

2 medium bananas or 1 large one

2 to 3 tablespoons peanut or almond butter

1/4 cup chocolate chips (or a chopped-up bar of regular chocolate if you don’t have chocolate chips)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a double broiler (or a glass bowl mounted over water in a saucepan), begin to melt the chocolate chips over low heat. Meanwhile, slice the bananas into quarter-inch slices. Spread a bit of peanut butter on half the slices (this is awkward but fun) and then assemble your banana-peanut butter sandwiches.

When the chocolate has melted, use a toothpick (or just your fingers — no need to head to the store for just toothpicks!) to dip one side of the banana sandwiches in chocolate. Place each dipped sandwich on the lined cookie sheet.

When all the sandwiches are made and coated, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Then pull them out and enjoy.

You can store these in the freezer, but they probably won't last long enough to do so.

Variation: If you want a version without any refined sugar, swap the chocolate chips for 1/4 cup semi-soft coconut oil (too melted and it won’t coat properly), 1 tablespoon (or more) maple syrup and 1 teaspoon cocoa powder. Mix it together and use it to coat the sandwiches. You may need to freeze the sandwiches once first and then dip them in this mixture before returning them to the freezer.


A jewel of a seasonal side dish

Red, red, as far as the eye can see.

Red, red, as far as the eye can see. by Sarah Henning

Given it’s the week before Thanksgiving, chances are you’re thinking a bit about the big ol’ dinner that we all have on the final Thursday of the month.

My husband and I host Thanksgiving each year at our house, but the cooking is left to my dad, who ties on an apron and takes over all the duties that day. Basically, the rest of us clear out and let him do his thing.

That said, I like to contribute something aside from my kitchen and a fridge full of ingredients. So, I tend to make a side or dessert ahead of time to add to the heap of traditional fare my dad pulls out of his hat.

Last year, it was these awesome Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars. And they were so fabulous, I’m sure they’ll be hitting the table yet again this year.

But I also wanted to make a little something else as a side. This desire, plus the fact that I actually got to go to the grocery store by myself, led me to a moment where I could just wander the produce aisle, dreaming up Thanksgiving Day combinations to my heart’s content.

The result of this kid-free bit of peace was the following recipe, something I’m calling Garnets and Rubies.

It makes use of two of the season’s best fresh ingredients and is so pretty you might not want to eat it.

But you should, because it’s mildly addictive. In fact, I posted the above photo of it to Instagram, and one of my followers tagged me back with a picture of her own version that night. In her words, “It’s weird at first, and then suddenly I’m devouring it.”


So, if you’re still looking for a side to bring or make for Thanksgiving, or just in the market for something fun to have with dinner, definitely give this one a try. It’s simple, looks elegant and the amount of folate and vitamin C here is off the charts.

Garnets and Rubies

2 bunches red beets

2 large pomegranates

Red wine vinegar

First, roast the beets: Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut off greens and use for another recipe or discard. Scrub beets clean and dry. Wrap unpeeled beets in foil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast for 45 minutes. When they’re finished, pull them out of the oven and use an oven mitt to open the foil packages to help them cool off. When completely cool, use a knife to skim off the stem and the ends, then chop into half-inch to quarter-inch pieces.

Next, seed to pomegranates: Fill a medium mixing bowl about halfway with water. Score your pomegranates four or five times and then cut off the very top of the fruit. Plunge each pomegranate in water and work open each of the scored sections. Began seeding the pomegranate. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the water and the bitter pith will float. When all your seeds have been removed, rinse them in a colander and remove any remaining pith.

To assemble: Place cooled beets in a medium serving bowl. Top with pomegranate seeds as artfully as you can. Splash on red wine vinegar to taste. Serves four.


‘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.


Spooky good cookie dough bites

Delicious and healthy and perfect for keeping the candy monster at bay.

Delicious and healthy and perfect for keeping the candy monster at bay. by Sarah Henning

At this point in my life, I’m not one to overdose on Halloween candy. Up until a few years ago, yes. Now, not so much.

Mostly because if I start eating it, I won’t stop. So I don’t start (if I can help it).

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want something sweet on the holiday. I mean, who doesn’t? This is one of the most sugar-centric holidays we have in this country, and I’m a lover of sweets. I just don’t need to eat an entire bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (though I’d love to).

My newest favorite sweet treat happen to taste a bit like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups mixed with cookie dough, but they’re much, much healthier: Peanut butter cookie dough bites.

I plan on bringing these to some of the Halloween-themed functions I will be attending, and I highly recommend making them if you’re staring down the candy stash hours (or days) before the trick-or-treaters begin to show up. Eat a few and you’ll feel much better than if you overdo it on the candy, plus you’ll get a dose of good fat, fiber and flavor.

These days I tend to make a double batch of these any time I have a moment to actually “cook” them (funny how the baby loves to eat but would rather not give me time in the kitchen).

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites (adapted from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats or oat flour

1/2 cup almond flour

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 heaping tablespoons smooth peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower butter

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (you might want a bit more if there’s no salt in your peanut butter)

2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

If using regular rolled oats instead of oat flour, start by grinding your oats into a fine powder using either a high-speed blender, food processor or (my favorite) a coffee grinder.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla, and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the almond flour, oat flour and salt and beat again until combined. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a bit more peanut butter and/or maple syrup. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into small balls. If the chocolate chips fall to the bottom of the bowl, press them back into the dough when rolling. Place the finished bites on a plate or pan lined with parchment paper.

Freeze the bites for five to 10 minutes or until firm. Store the bites in the freezer in a freezer bag for quick and easy snacks.

Makes about 30.

Tips: Make sure all your ingredients are room temperature (I keep my maple syrup and almond flour in the fridge) because if ingredients are too cold, the coconut oil will start to solidify, making it hard to mix. Also, if you’re using the type of nut butter that requires stirring, make sure the oil is well-incorporated before measuring it out for the recipe.


Celebrating sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes and apples make for the perfect fall anytime dish.

Sweet potatoes and apples make for the perfect fall anytime dish. by Sarah Henning

October is pretty tuber-tubular, according to the local farm set.

A group of area farmers, foodies, restaurants and stores have banded together to make October “Celebrate Sweet Potatoes” month in Lawrence, even going so far as getting the City Commission to give the orange spud its own month.

The group set up a website, celebratesweetpotatoes.com, and filled it with information on events, “Tuber Tuesday” sweet potato specials and facts about the different types of potatoes and their stellar nutritional value.

Hoyland Farm’s Bob Lominska says the idea really is just to get local eaters out of the idea that sweet potatoes are strictly for eating with marshmallows at Thanksgiving.

If you’ve followed this space for the past few years, you know I’m quite the sweet potato fan and feature them often in my recipes and the recipes I share. As part of my own personal mini celebration of sweet potatoes, I went back through my recipes and found some of my favorites, and thought I’d also share a recipe I haven’t yet that pairs two of my favorite fall staples.

But first, some of my personal favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes include:

Done up with gingerAs the base for currySimply roasted

Now, for a new recipe. I love this dish from Nancy O’Connor’s “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” because it’s pretty and pretty versatile. It really is both a side dish and a dessert (I’ve even had it for breakfast). If that sounds like it could be a description of the old marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes of yore, think again. This one has the added bonus of apples and makes your kitchen smell like that homey scent Yankee Candle only thinks it gets right.

Oh, and even though October is almost over, there’s obviously nothing wrong with keeping the tuber-tubular train rolling well into spring.

Sweet Potato and Apple Bake 2 or 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced approximately 1/4-inch thick

2 flavorful fall apples, peeled and sliced approximately 1/4-inch thick (I used Granny Smith and didn’t peel them)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

1/4 cup apple cider

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil a large shallow baking dish. Arrange sweet potato and apple slices attractively in dish.

Combine butter, maple syrup or honey, cider and salt in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until butter is melted.

Pour half of the mixture over the sweet potatoes and apples. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Halfway through the baking, drizzle the remaining butter/syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes and apples. Serves 6.

— Recipe from “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” by Nancy O’Connor


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!


A twist on ratatouille

Summer, fall and winter in one dish.

Summer, fall and winter in one dish. by Sarah Henning

October is a strange time of year if you eat seasonally. It’s easy to want the best of both worlds — the taste of summer to go along with the sort of warm comfort food that sounds so fantastic when a chill comes to the air.

Luckily, there are quite a few dishes that bridge the gap between summer and fall quite well. One of them being the famous French stewed vegetable dish ratatouille. It’s an entree that highlights summer vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash) all the while being warm in a way that would be perfect in the dead of winter.

Local cookbook author/food maven Nancy O’Connor takes ratatouille one step further in the direction of a cold weather dish with a recipe from her “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” that combines the deliciousness of ratatouille with the extreme comfort food quotient of a baked pasta dish. The results are a bridge of beauty.

My hubby liked this so much, in fact, that he wants to try the same sort of method with other seasonal vegetables when the weather really does turn. So keep your eyes peeled for a “winter ratatouille bake” later on.

Ratatouille Bake

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups eggplant, peeled and diced

2 cups zucchini (or other summer squash), chopped

1 large green or red pepper, diced

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8- to 10-ounce package frozen cheese-filled pasta (ravioli or tortellini)

4 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and eggplant and saute for several minutes, stirring constantly. Add zucchini, pepper, tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook over medium heat several minutes more. Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook until vegetables are tender and flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. While vegetables are simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Lightly oil a large casserole and line bottom with cooked pasta. Cover with hot vegetables (ratatouille). Top with grated cheese. Broil until nicely brown on top. Serves 6.

— Recipe from “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” by Nancy O’Connor


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



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


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.


The tale of the Thai dragon peppers

The infamous Thai dragon pepper plant.

The infamous Thai dragon pepper plant. by Sarah Henning

I’m the garden planner in the family, but this year, the hubby made a special request after spotting the tag of a transplant at Vinland Valley Nursery: a Thai dragon pepper.

Though the name alone was enough to conjure visions of our family turning into a clan of fire-breathing Medieval beasts, the hubby was way more jazzed about the spicy possibilities than anything else we’d planned for the Henning Garden 2014, so we bought it.

In July, the tiny peppers on our single little plant started to turn red. And, suddenly, we realized we’d actually have to figure out what the heck to do with our scarily named cultivars. Surprisingly, Mr. Let’s-Buy-This-Terrifyingly-Hot-Pepper didn’t immediately know what he wanted to do with it.

So, we made salsa—mostly because it seemed like step one in conquering (and understanding) the Thai dragon. The one we picked to try roasts the peppers first before putting them in a fresh tomato-and-onion salsa. The roasting added great, professional-grade taste to the salsa. Or, so said my husband, who was the only one brave enough to try it.

Yes, I’m a wimp. I’ll water you, Thai dragon peppers, but eat you? That’s the hubby’s job.

Note: After some research, we found out that the Thai dragon’s opening bid on the Scoville scale is 75,000 units—or just less than a habeñero pepper, which has a starting value of 100,000 units. For reference, a jalapeño starts at 3,500 units.

Fresh Tomato Salsa with Roasted Chiles (“Viva Vegan!” by Terry Hope Romero)

2 to 4 large jalapeño or serrano chiles (sub in 1 Thai Dragon peppers with 2 jalapeños to cut the spice)

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, preferably plum, seeded and chopped finely

1 large white onion, diced finely

3 tablespoons lime juice

½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon salt or more to taste

To roast the chiles: In a large saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Have ready a medium-size glass or metal heat-resistant bowl. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, slice open the chiles, remove the stems and seeds and open the chiles so that they can be easily flattened when pressed with a spatula. (Wear gloves when handling hot chiles.) Place the chiles in the heated skillet and use a metal spatula to press and flip them frequently to toast, about 1 minute. Watch the chiles carefully to prevent them from burning. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the chiles the heat-resistant bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chiles and set aside for 10 minutes, to allow the chiles to soften. Drain the water from the chiles. Set aside.

Mince the cooled chiles as finely as possible and place in a mixing bowl.

Add the tomatoes and onion to the chiles and stir in the lime juice and salt. Chill the salsa for 30 minutes or let sit at room temperature, for the flavors to blend and the tomatoes to tenderize and release more of their juices.

Makes about 3 cups.


Chocolate zucchini muffins for the lunchbox

These kid-friendly zucchini muffins are made with gluten-free oat flour.

These kid-friendly zucchini muffins are made with gluten-free oat flour. by Sarah Henning

I’ve started making the kiddo’s lunches for kindergarten, and, as any parent (or just anyone who has ever packed a sack lunch) knows, it’s sometimes difficult to make sure you’re including the right amount of food. Too much and it’s a waste, too little and lunch ends with your kid having a not-so-full tummy.

So, I’ve been trying to vary what I put in the kiddo’s lunch, just to see what comes home and what doesn’t.

Last week, his little treat was a super healthy cookie. This week, it was my version of zucchini bread.

Just like most of you, we’ve got an end-of-summer surplus of zucchini, and rather than grating and freezing it all (which I’ve done in the past), I’ve been trying to use as much of it in “real time” as possible. Thus, it’s pretty convenient that the kiddo loves these chocolate-zucchini muffins (heavily adapted from the Chocolate Spice Zucchini Cake recipe in Nancy O’Connor’s “Rolling Prairie Cookbook”) that use a cup and a half of the shredded stuff at a time.

They’re good for both a lunch treat and for breakfast, but if you can’t get through all 15 of these muffins in short order, don’t worry, as they freeze really well.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 eggs, beaten or 2 flax eggs (per egg: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed and 3 tablespoons of water)

1/2 cup non-dairy milk with 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar stirred in to curdle

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups oat flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons grated orange peel (I used dried)

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (I grated it in the food processor)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place liners in a 12-well muffin tin (this recipe makes about 15 muffins, so if you have a second tin, line it with three liners as well).

In a large bowl, combine coconut oil, honey/maple syrup and coconut sugar. Mix in eggs/flax eggs, curdled non-dairy milk and vanilla. Sift in the oat flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Stir well to combine. Stir in the orange peel and zucchini.

Spoon the mixture into the lined muffin tins, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 30 minutes.

Yields 15 muffins.


Lunchbox ideas

School lunch is a go.

School lunch is a go. by Sarah Henning

The kiddo has been talking about bringing his lunch to school for more than a year.

In the days before he started preschool, he asked if this is the year he could bring his lunch. We said no (because of school policy), but that he could bring his lunch in kindergarten.

I sort of suspected that eventually his enthusiasm for bringing his own lunch would wane. But it didn’t during all of preschool. Or in the days leading up to kindergarten, where he got a chance to bring his own lunch to a camp he was attending. And it hasn’t waned (yet) now that he’s an actual kindergartener.

It’s funny, because I remember wanting school lunch. Mostly because it (sometimes) contained things I didn’t often get at home: pizza, french fries, etc. More than that, I remember collecting quarters specifically so I could buy a la carte goodies my parents wouldn’t let me have such as ice cream, cookies and Little Debbie Nutty Bars.

I can’t delude myself into thinking my perfect little boy won’t do this too, no matter how interested he is right now in eating fruits and vegetables. Kids are constantly learning about themselves and the world around them through their experiences. And experience includes food.

I’m not going to put my kid in a food bubble until he’s 18.

But I will make his lunch. For as long as he wants me to.

Which might be until next week or might be until he’s old enough to drive. Hard to tell. But while I do have control of his lunchbox, I’d prefer good stuff go in there.

But I don’t want him to feel deprived either, which is why he always (so far) gets a treat to go along with his basic sandwich/fruit/vegetable trio.

So, one week he got our favorite little chocolate chip cookies (above). Another week, he’s gotten these cookies, which he actually likes better, even though they’re pretty ugly. But even an ugly cookie is a tasty cookie. I’ve also been giving him some special muffins, which I’ll share next week.

But first. The best ugly cookie ever to go in a lunchbox. And, yes, I’ll make them for him through his 18th birthday and beyond.

I feel good putting these in his lunchbox. They’re healthy, taste good and might even stave off his eventual career as a small-change thief with a soft-spot for junk food. Or not.

The Healthiest Cookies Ever (Recipe from www.detoxinista.com)

1 ½ cups raw walnut halves

1 cup medjool dates, pitted (about 12)

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax or chia seeds plus 3 tablespoons water)

½ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade, process the dates and walnuts together until a crumbly texture is formed. Add in the salt, baking soda, vanilla and flax egg and process again until the batter is relatively smooth. Add in the chocolate chips and briefly pulse, just to combine.

Spoon the batter onto a lined baking sheet, and use your hands to gently flatten the cookie dough. (Tip: Wet your hands with water to prevent sticking.) Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve immediately, and store the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for best shelf life. These cookies should last a week in the fridge, and a month or more in the freezer.


Turning tomatillos into salsa verde

Salsa verde, in process.

Salsa verde, in process. by Sarah Henning

Recently at the Lawrence Farmers' Market, my husband spotted some great-looking tomatillos — those little green husk tomatoes that add tart and tang wherever they go.

We immediately scooped them up and begun to make plans for salsa verde.

If you've never made green salsa at home, it's actually easy to do, if not slightly more involved than making fresh regular salsa. That's because you've got to cook down the tomatillos. Not quite as easy as chopping and blending a few tomatoes, onions and peppers, but totally worth the effort — this sauce goes perfectly on almost anything. Which is good, because it makes 2 cups.

Use it all in a week on various dishes (we've used it on fajitas, salads, veggie burgers and the like) or freeze it in small portions a la pesto and save it for later.

Salsa Verde

10 tomatillos (husks removed), cleaned and diced (Our tomatillos were really big, so we used fewer)

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Juice of 1 lime

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro

In a small saucepan over low heat, saute the garlic and jalapeño in oil until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatillos and salt, saute until the tomatillos begin to release moisture, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a slow boil, and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, let cool until it is not steaming, then add the cilantro and lime juice. Pour into a blender and blend until relatively smooth, about 30 seconds.

Makes about 2 cups.

— Recipe from "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero


When life gives you bananas, you make muffins

Not like your mom used to make, but that's OK.

Not like your mom used to make, but that's OK. by Sarah Henning

We buy a LOT of bananas. We use at least two a day in the morning smoothie that the kiddo and I share. Plus they're perfect for pre-workout snacks, after-school snacks and banana ice soft serve for dessert.

But, sometimes, just like any other family, we miss the mark and just don't get to them. The result: Perfectly ripe bananas going black while waiting their turn in the fruit bowl.

And, because I'm my mother's daughter, what I do with over-ripe bananas is make banana bread.

As one does.

But when I last had too many bananas, I wanted to try something a little different. This winter, I got pretty good at making desserts out of pumpkin and almond butter (see these pumpkin pie bars and doughnuts as evidence), so I thought I might try the same with bananas and almond butter.

After a bit of trial and error, I ended up not with great banana bread, but with great banana-nut muffins. (Muffins beat out the bread version mostly because they made for easier portion control.) They're dense and moist and perfect for the morning, either plain or topped with some honey or jam.

You might be able to tell from that last suggestion, but what these muffins aren't is sweet. The bananas and only 2 tablespoons of maple syrup sweeten the whole batch. I realize this might be a turnoff for some people (my kiddo wasn't a fan), but my hubby and I really liked that we didn't feel like we were eating a sugar bomb first thing in the morning.

That said, if you like your muffins sweeter, you could add another 2 tablespoons or so of maple syrup to get them a big sweeter, though they still will never rival traditional banana bread in the toothache arena.

Low-Sugar Banana Nut Muffins

4-5 ripe or over-ripe bananas

1/2 cup almond butter (no salt and raw, if possible)

4 eggs or the equivalent of an egg substitute like a flax egg

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted if solid

2 tablespoons maple syrup (or more)

1/2 cup coconut flour (this is really absorbent, so you don't want to substitute another type)

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch of salt (adjust if your almond butter is salted)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 12 to 15 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.

In a blender, combine your bananas (cut up), eggs or egg replacement, almond butter, coconut oil and maple syrup. Blend well. If you're using regular eggs, it will be quite frothy.

Pour the blender contents into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients except for chopped walnuts. Mix well. Fold in the walnuts and mix again.

Fill each of the liners two-thirds of the way full. If you add more maple syrup, chances are you'll have more batter and get closer to the yield of 15.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Serves 12 to 15.

Reply 1 comment from Sherry Warren

Eat Your Vegetables: The perfect blackberry pie

The best wedding present I ever gave.

The best wedding present I ever gave. by Sarah Henning

When attending a wedding, it is normally customary to RSVP, choose an outfit, talk the hubby into a tie. But recently, my wedding prep became RSVP, choose an outfit, bake a pie.

Actually, two pies.

A good running buddy of mine requested at her recent wedding that a few of her guests bake two homemade pies for the reception’s dessert table rather than bring a gift. It’s an idea that I thought was genius. And went along perfectly with the locally sourced theme of this wedding in which 75 percent of the reception dinner for 200 was grown by the bride herself and the rest (save for a bit of watermelon) was bought from local vendors. (And you thought your wedding was crazy to plan.)

In keeping with the locally flavored theme, I wanted to make at least one pie that showcased the abundance of blackberries we have right now in our home berry patch. I also wanted to feature the pie crust my grandma made probably weekly when I was little. As I wrote awhile ago, she was a fabulous cook and I’m honored to have her recipes in my arsenal.

So, for one of my two wedding pies, I decided I’d make pie the old-fashioned way. Grandma’s crust paired with my spin on Sauver’s blackberry pie recipe.

The result, as you can see above, was gorgeous, and tasted great, too.

Now, it’s not exactly the healthiest thing I ever put in this column, however. For a pie more along the lines of what’s usually in this space, check out this recipe, which I adapted into my other pie by making it in a deep-dish pie plate and using cherries for the topping rather than strawberries (I called it Vegan Cherry Cheesecake Pie at the wedding).

Blackberry Pie and Grandma Jeanne No-Fail Pie Dough

1 recipe for pie dough (below)

⅓ cup flour plus more for rolling

1 teaspoon salt

6 cups blackberries (if using frozen, defrost and drain juice)

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoon lemon juice

Zest of one lemon or 2 more teaspoons of lemon juice

A pinch of cinnamon

1 egg white


Unwrap 1 dough disk; transfer to a well-floured surface. Whack it with a rolling pin several times to flatten it out; turn it over and repeat. Roll out dough to form an 11-inch circle and transfer it to a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. (If dough tears and needs mending, dab a little water where it requires patching and "glue" on a piece of dough.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put berries, ¾ cup sugar, lemon juice, zest (if using), cinnamon, ⅓ cup flour and salt into a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mash gently to make a textured filling; pour into chilled crust and set aside.

Beat egg white and 1 tablespoon water together in a bowl and set aside. Roll out remaining dough disk into an 11-inch circle; cut into ¾-inch-wide strips. Arrange strips over pie in a lattice pattern, trim excess dough and crimp edges of pie. Brush crust with egg mixture; sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven until crust is just golden, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes more. Let cool before serving.

Note: I had leftover dough from the latticing and ended up making “pie dough cookies” with the excess (this is another thing I used to do with my grandma). To do this, combine the remaining dough scraps, roll into a rough circle, and then top with butter and cinnamon sugar. Roll the dough into a log and then cut little pinwheel shaped cookies from the log (cut each slice about a quarter-inch thick). I baked them for about 20 minutes once the temperature was lowered to 350. The kiddo loved these more than the actual pie.

Grandma Jeanne’s No-Fail Pie Dough

3 cups unbleached flour

1 ¼ cups shortening (Note: I swapped butter for this recipe, as I don’t like the nutritional profile of shortening)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

Cut-in until the mixture doesn’t cling (breadcrumb or shortcake texture). Note: This can take five minutes or more, be patient.

1 tablespoon apple vinegar

1 egg, beaten

½ cup water

Mix wet items.

Add wet to dry ingredients a little at a time, stirring constantly until moist-will form a ball when completely mixed.

Chill in discs, wrapped in plastic, for at least one hour before rolling out.

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts.


Something new for the grill

Grilled with just a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary from our garden.

Grilled with just a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary from our garden. by Sarah Henning

Mostly because we did a horrible job of grilling outdoors last summer, the hubby and I are trying really, really hard to better use our little Weber this summer.

We’re never going to be everyday grillers, or even once-a-week-when-it’s-warm grillers. But doing better than the two(?) times we grilled out last summer seems to be a nice goal.

Luckily, our Rolling Prairie CSA share and the Lawrence Farmers’ Market have been providing the perfect veggies to go on the grill with my hubby’s beloved brats: corn, summer squash and potatoes.

Yes, you read that right. I did mean to tack potatoes onto the end of that sentence.

I’d never considered doing potatoes on the grill, because I always just sort of see them as a “stove” food, if that makes sense. But, nope, turns out you can grill them.

And they’re delicious.

Grilled potatoes taste like roasted potatoes, but with a little something extra from being on the fire. They also are wonderful in that you don’t have to choose between storing all those wonderful new potatoes that are available locally right now and turning your kitchen into the surface of the sun while simultaneously trying to cool your house down to a reasonable summer temp in the 70s.

So, the save energy and taste delicious. What can’t they do?

Grill-Roasted New Potatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds new potatoes, each 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, scrubbed and quartered

Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 F).

In a medium bowl, combine the oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and stir to coat them evenly.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the potatoes over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until tender and browned on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes, scooping and turning with a wide spatula every 5 minutes or so.

Remove from the grill and transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: We used a metal grilling pan meant for vegetables rather than putting the potatoes directly on the grill. We also didn’t check the temperature, but rather put them on early in the process when the grill was coolest. They cooked faster than the suggested 15 to 20 minutes, but they still tasted great.

— Recipe from www.weber.com