Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”
I’ve been in the mood for beets lately. Like lots and lots of beets. Maybe it’s just my appetite’s way trying to get me to think warm thoughts. You know, because the local beet crop will kick in in June.
Do you guys remember what June feels like? All warm and sunny and pretty?
Very much unlike what’s going on right now, unfortunately.
Luckily, roasted beets are earthy and hearty in ways that make them especially delicious in the dead of winter. Sometimes, I just eat them straight. Sometimes I roast them with other vegetables and a balsamic dressing. But lately, I’ve been roasting them without oil, letting them cool and then tossing them into salads. (For the roasting, I’ve been using this method I mentioned back when local beets were a thing.)
I usually like to have my roasted salad beets with other root vegetables like sweet potatoes. But one night when we were out of sweet potatoes (oh, the horror), I made a salad from a few random things we had on hand for the kiddo’s dinner.
I believe we paired this with leftover spaghetti squash (which clearly wasn’t memorable enough for me to photograph), and the dinner as a whole was hearty, delicious and extra healthy thanks to all the good extras the beets added to the show.
Beet and Spinach Side Salad
1 cup roasted beets, chopped
Hilary’s Eat Well mini veggie burgers (I posted about them here)
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced (optional)
Olive oil and balsamic to taste
Bake the veggie burgers about 400 degrees for 18 minutes on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Divide spinach and beets among two bowls. Top each bowl with burgers (pulled into quarters), egg slices, if using, olive oil and balsamic vinegar or dressing of your choice. Enjoy.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about National Pizza Day. And while our family loves making homemade pizza so much that we probably do it once a week, sometimes you just don’t have the time to do it.
I mean, if we don’t give the dough time to rise, it won’t be good. And, sure, we have often grabbed a ball of dough from 715 when times are tight, but we can’t do that all the time. And I’m not about to buy store-bought pizza crusts. That just isn’t my style.
A shortcut we’ve been trying? Polenta.
Long ago, when the kiddo was a baby, we’d made pizza with polenta. But we hadn’t done it in years. And as with most things that get out of the rotation, it’s so easy to forget how tasty and easy it was.
And it is. Long ago, we’d slice up the polenta into rounds of similar thickness (1/4 inch), arrange them together on a cookie sheet in the rough shape of a circle, pour on the sauce and cheese and bake it for 10 minutes.
But, because the kiddo is sooooo big on making things himself, this time we arranged the rounds like cookies on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and let him dress five rounds himself, just like he wanted. Then, we dressed the rest. It was a little more time-intensive but worth it. And rave-worthy, if the fact that we’ve had it twice in two weeks is any indication.
One night, I served them with sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts (above) and another with sweet potatoes. The result is something hearty and a little out of the ordinary, but “normal” enough that our 5-year-old accepted it without a challenge.
Mini Polenta Pizzas
1 tube polenta, any flavor
Pizza or marinara sauce
Cheese (we used goat cheese)
Toppings (we sauteed bell pepper, mushrooms and onion in olive oil and balsamic and topped the pizzas after they came out of the oven).
Set oven to 375 degrees. Cut tube of polenta into similar-thickness rounds, about 1/4 of an inch, and arrange in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Top with desired toppings. Bake for about 10 minutes. Serve warm.
For Valentine's Day, my little guy wanted to make something special.
He’d already devoured my deconstructed chocolate-covered fruit salad (turns out he likes white chocolate?), so we decided to make something else from scratch.
Ever since Christmas, he’s been constantly asking to make cut-out cookies, but we just hadn’t done it, mostly because I don’t want him to think it’s OK to eat Grandma’s sugar cookies all year long. I mean, they’re delicious, but they’re not the healthiest dessert imaginable.
So, I found a recipe on one of my favorite sites that is for a cookie with a base of almond flour and honey. I find these ingredients to be far healthier than flour and white sugar and butter. Add in a healthier version of icing, and we were off to the races.
Thus, we had a win-win-win: Kiddo gets his special cut-out cookies, Mom gets her nutritional preferences met and we both get to eat the heck out of a special holiday treat.
Of course, Valentine’s Day has passed, but there’s no reason you couldn’t make these for your sweetheart for another occasion
Almond Flour Frosted Sugar Cookies
For the cookies
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened (or use butter instead)
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the frosting
2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together the cookie ingredients until a thick, creamy batter is formed. If the dough seems dry, add a little bit of maple syrup to make it creamier.
Chill the dough for 30 minutes in the fridge
Using a cookie scoop, drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet, lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Press each bit of dough flat and then cut into desired shape with cookie cutters.
Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.
Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, simply cream together the coconut oil, honey, almond extract and salt until well combined. If the coconut oil starts to melt (it melts at temperatures above 76 degrees), briefly place the mixture in the fridge to help it set.
Frost the cooled cookies, and let them set in the fridge for a more solid-frosting.
— Recipe adapted from www.detoxinista.com
Sunday was National Pizza Day—something I didn’t know a thing about until various types of social media informed me. Thank goodness for Twitter, am I right?
Needless to say, my pizza-loving family was happy to abandon our previous meal plan and make pizza. About the time we decided to do this, it was snowing. As we know, that ended soon, but before the snow stopped, the hubby and I decided that we'd make our observance of National Pizza Day a bit more exciting by using only what we had on hand.
Meaning, no runs to the store for more toppings/cheese/sauce.
We already had the flour and olive oil for our typical dough, plus some leftover cheese and sauce from our last pizza-making expedition. But toppings were a complete toss up.
I’d gone grocery shopping the day before, but not specifically for pizza. Thus, we ended up using bits of what I’d already bought as toppings, namely: crimini mushrooms, red onion, red pepper and avocado. Add in some already-opened garlic olives and peppadew peppers and we had dinner.
Thus, below in order are our National Pizza Day 2014 pizzas…
The kiddo’s—cheese sans sauce:
The hubby’s—cheese with red pepper, red onion and mushrooms
And my lactose-free concoction: baba ghanoush (no hummus in the fridge!), red onion, mushrooms, garlic-stuffed olives, peppadew peppers and avocado (added after cooking)
Ah, the rush for EVERYTHING at the grocery store, the night before the storm.
Having lived in both Scranton, Pa., and West Palm Beach, Fla., my husband and I intimately know the “storm food rush.”
In Pennsylvania, we were hopelessly laid out to dry by lifetime residents — little old ladies who had winter storm ration acquisition down to a meticulous science, while my husband and I aimlessly wandered the aisles, unsure where our priorities should lie.
By the time we moved to Florida, we had a good idea of how to prepare when hurricane season hit: Water, bread (usually bagels) and peanut butter first; trail mix, fruit and plastic utensils/paper plates next; bananas and apples last.
The strategy: Never anything frozen (we once lost power for up to two weeks), foods that work for any meal (power or running water optional) and provisions (like the utensils and plates) that make life without good water or electricity easier.
After four years there, we knew exactly what we were doing: both before a storm and after.
But, admittedly, we were a bit off our game with Tuesday’s impending storm. Mostly: We forgot what it could be like.
I sent my husband to the grocery store after work Monday night for the single lime we needed for the butternut squash curry we’d planned to make Tuesday during the storm. He went and the store was so busy and crazy, that he ended up buying a bunch of random things we also probably needed but didn’t plan for — coffee, pomegranates, eggs, spinach.
If I’d gone to the store, I’d probably done the same thing. In short: We were off our pre-storm game. All that training we did living through five hurricanes in Florida and a snow-filled winter in Pennsylvania apparently has waned in the six-and-a-half years since we returned to Kansas.
That said, I’m kind of hoping not to officially retrain that muscle. If this is the only major storm of winter 2014, I totally wouldn’t mind that. Even though it’s nice to have a day of watching the snow with tea at my side and something delicious in the slow cooker.
The recipe we needed the lime for? Butternut squash curry. If you need something warm in the days after the storm, I highly recommend it. Just get the ingredients early.
Butternut Squash Curry
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk, divided (be sure to shake the coconut milk well before dividing)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
In a small bowl, combine lime zest and juice, curry paste and soy sauce. Stir in a bit of coconut milk to blend. Add to slow cooker stoneware along with remaining coconut milk. Stir in squash.
Cover and cook on high for three hours, until squash is tender. Serve immediately.
— Recipe from "150 Best Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and More Slow Cooker Recipes" by Sunil Vijayakar
So far this month, I've written about tricks for eating healthy, frozen food helpers, the pros of eating dessert and how to plan healthy snacks.
I thought I'd end this month's healthy eating pep talk with a delicious treat that works as both a snack and dessert. And — bonus — this treat has protein (from the almonds), healthy fats (from the almonds and coconut oil), iron (from the molasses) and contains no refined sugars.
Oh, and it's a delicious treat/snack/healthy choice.
I've been making these every couple of weeks since the fall and find the taste to be perfectly sweet and spicy and the texture is nice and chewy. In fact, the only downside to these cookies is that you have to wait 30 minutes for the dough to firm up.
But it's worth the wait. I promise.
Helpful note: You want to start with all your ingredients as close to room temperature as possible. This is because the coconut oil solidifies at 75 degrees. So, if you mix it with cold ingredients, it clumps a bit and this can drastically alter how your cookies come out. Trust me, I've been impatient before and the cookies I got were flat and off.
Grain-Free Ginger Cookies 1 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquid
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix until a thick batter is formed. Chill the batter for 30 minutes in the fridge to make sure it’s nice and firm before scooping.
Preheat the oven to 350 and drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat, or parchment paper. Use a wet fork to flatten each dough mound, into your desired cookie thickness. If you’d like a sugar topping, try sprinkling a bit of low-glycemic coconut crystals over the tops before baking.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until firm around the edges, but still soft in the center. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serves 12.
— Recipe from www.detoxinista.com
In the month of January, I’ve discussed several of the finer points of cleaning up your eating in the new year: shopping and dining strategies, the freezer as your friend and letting yourself eat chocolate.
Now, it’s snack time.
Acknowledging that, yes, chances are you’ll eat between meals goes a long way in the world of eat healthy strategy.
Because here’s the thing: When making healthy changes, a lot of us don’t plan on snacking. I’ve had many a moment over the years where I pack my lunch for work and don’t bring anything else because if I bring it I know I’ll eat it. And I figured that if I didn’t bring a morning snack and an afternoon snack, I would save myself the calories and cost associated with both.
The gaping hole in this logic: If you don’t bring something to snack on and you get hungry — and you know you will — you’re left with few choices:
- You could rush home to get the snack you didn’t bring, but chances are you won’t have time.
- You could just sit there with a hole in your stomach waiting until it’s a socially acceptable time to devour your lunch (Come on, 11 o’clock!).
- Cop for something decidedly unhealthy in the work vending machine/snack trough/nearest coffee shop.
We all know which answer is most likely to happen during a busy work day and it’s not good if you’re trying to make wholesale changes.
Thus, it’s a good idea to just go ahead and assume you’re going to need snacks to go right along with your newly healthy lunch and dinner. If you don’t eat it, fine. If you do: Don’t beat yourself up about it. You were hungry. You needed to eat. Eat.
My strategy for this during the workweek is simple: Fruit and nuts.
As I mentioned in my first “pep talk” post this month, I have a bowl on my desk that I fill up at the beginning of each workweek with fruit. Apples, tangerines, pears and bananas. Each piece has under 100 calories and is packed with fiber and various vitamins, which means one or two make a great snack.
For times when I need more than just a piece of fruit, I keep a mixture of raw almonds and walnuts in my desk drawer. Throw in a few chocolate chips and goji berries (or raisins), and you’ve got a homemade trail mix that’s both a great snack and a great little dessert.
Start there, and see if you can not only train yourself into accepting that you’re going to snack, but also teach yourself to do it in a healthy way.
This January, I’ve been making it a point to write about healthy eating and how to get started if your resolutions included cleaning things up a bit.
And, honestly, I could never, ever think about eating — healthy or otherwise — without thinking about dessert.
The need for something sweet is what kills many a healthy eating goal, including mine. And for me, and maybe for you, the worst offenses I’ve made have been because I’ve totally made sweets completely off-limits. If I ban something, I only want it more.
Therefore, I’ve gotten really good at almost exclusively enjoying healthy desserts.
The secret, in my opinion, to a healthy dessert?
Honestly, I have chocolate every day. Every single day. High-quality, good chocolate is not something I ever feel guilty about. And you shouldn’t either.
Here’s my theory on this: If you let yourself have a little bit of something sweet — but not too sweet — daily, you save yourself from binging on it later on. Many times I’ve quit sweets for a week, only to overdo it dramatically once the floodgates open up again. It’s not pretty. And it never ends well.
But if you have a little bit every day, it doesn’t become this big deal or big event to have a little something sweet.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you eat a doughnut every day and try to call that healthy. But a square of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate? Or a few chocolate chips? Both are a good investment. And it’s satisfying enough that you probably won’t need more.
Another tip? Find recipes that use maple syrup or honey as sweetener. Sure, those liquids are still sugar, but I firmly believe they’re not as horrible for you in small doses as white sugar.
The key words there: “small doses.”
Overdo it on maple syrup or even dark chocolate and you’ll need to hit the reset button the next day.
But eating healthy isn’t just a resolution, it’s a lifestyle. And it’s necessary to learn to live within the parameters you consider healthy. And you can’t get through life without dessert.
Last week, I wrote about the little things you could do to help make it toward your goal of eating better in the new year.
This week, inspired by the crazy cold temperatures, I thought I’d continue this January pep talk with my top three frozen helpers. You know, the foods that are real and reliable and readily available (how’s that for alliteration?) and help me make sure my family gets the healthiest foods possible with the least amount of hassle.
Now, I prefer fresh foods. Fresh fruits, veggies and unaltered ingredients, all without processing. However, because I’m a working mom, there is no way in heck that I can buy only those things week in and week out and manage to A. Use it all before it goes bad B. Do anything but cook to keep on top of it.
I do rely on some frozen items. And before you ask, I prefer frozen to canned because there often aren’t added ingredients (e.g. salt) and I don’t have to worry whether or not the can might be lined with BPA. Of course, if the power goes out, I lose money, but to me, it’s worth it in the end.
Frozen fruits and vegetables: Whenever freezer section berries and veggies are on sale, I load up. Blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, cherries, strawberries, etc., plus every kind of vegetables available. All the berries are great in smoothies, homemade sorbet and crumbles, while all the vegetables work well in stir-fries and slow-cooker recipes. Also, all work just fine eaten all by their lonesome (they’re mushy but hey, they’re healthy.) Note: Make sure to choose berries without added sugar.
Hilary’s Eat Well Mini Veggie Burgers: I used to love to go to Local Burger and buy the regular-sized veggie burgers there in bulk. Now, not only can you get the big ones, but little kid-sized mini ones, too. The kiddo prefers the tiny ones and I love that not only do I know there are no ingredients I don’t want in them, but I know (and have interviewed many times) the person who created them, Hilary Brown (and no, I wasn’t paid to say anything about these).
Pizza dough: OK, so I make the pizza dough and then freeze it. It’s easy to make, saves lots of money, freezes well and then you can make super healthy pizza with ease. And yes, I do believe homemade pizza is worlds better for you than the frozen kind (which is usually rife with salt, extra fat and chemicals you won't use if you make it at home). Use this recipe, divide it in half and you've got two pizza-sized balls of dough at the ready. Stick the dough in a plastic bag and freeze. All you have to do is remember to put the ball of dough out on the counter before you leave for work in the morning.
Happy Jan. 1. Or, as it's known in most of the Western Hemisphere: the day New Year’s resolutions begin.
Confession: the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept was giving up artificial sweeteners back in 2008. Every other resolution I’ve tried has been far too vague for a scorecard (spend less, save more, etc.).
But I can tell you from personal experience that if you want to start 2014 with a resolution to eat better, whether that’s just to improve the way you feel or because you want to lose 20 pounds, you can do no wrong starting with real, honest-to-god food.
Eating real, nothing-added, no-label-on-it food has been my mission for the past several years.
That said, I used to be of the group of health nuts who thought packed bars, shakes and other manufactured foods were the holy grail. In college, I’d blow all my meager grocery budget on protein bars and “healthy” frozen dinners, while skimping on actual food.
Actual food went bad. It wasn’t consistently the same (taste-wise or calorie-wise), either.
And if my manufactured diet had two attributes, they’d be 1. Shelf life of a Twinkie and 2. As consistent as the factory gods could make it.
While I admit to still buying the occasional protein bar or and sneaking protein powder into my smoothies, I can definitely say that the more I’ve worked to limit my diet to as much about real food as possible, the better it’s been for me.
So, being as it’s my job to inform, here, lovely reader, are my top tips for integrating real, honest-to-no-barcode food for better health, no matter your exact resolution in 2014:
Don’t overbuy. It’s extremely tempting when you’re trying to start eating well to go to the store and drop $200 on tons of food you never eat … and then watch as $100 of it yellows and dies in the fridge or shrivels on the counter. Instead, try to buy on the conservative side of things. Only a few new items at a time.
“Market shop.” And here’s the way not to overbuy but still eat well: Go to the store more than once per week. I know this is not that attractive of an idea to some but buying what you need from the store as you need it/or when you run out is a great way to make sure you actually use those beets or kale or persimmons rather than watching your good intentions rot with them.
Stick to two meals per week. Rather than swing for the fences with a new healthy meal every night and leftovers every day at lunch, I highly recommend picking two nights per week to cook a healthy meal from scratch. Maybe Sunday and Tuesday or Monday and Wednesday. Make enough to have leftovers the next day. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be an everyday grind.
Raid the salad bar for lunch. To avoid having a hard time packing a healthy lunch or raiding your leftovers and ruining your dinner meal plan for the week, head to a salad bar at the beginning of the work week and get enough salad to last you two to three lunches. Just keep the dressing separate and pile your day’s lunch on a separate plate or bowl before dressing it so that it stays fresher, longer.
Put a fruit bowl out on your desk. If hitting the vending machine hard at work is your processed food downfall, I highly suggest bringing a little bowl to set on your desk and fill with fruits — apples, tangerines, pears— at the beginning of the week. It’ll keep hunger pangs at bay and work as a visual reminder of your resolution.
Good luck and good health in 2014.
Yes, this space is called "Eat Your Vegetables" and we all know I implore y'all to do that as much as humanly possible.
But let's be real a second: The holiday season is most assuredly not about the vegetables.
If we're talking food, it's about the cookies.
Sugar cookies. Pinwheels. Spritz.
So many beautiful, sweet beauties. So, so little time.
OK, that's not true. We have a full month's run up of cookies from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. Cookies, cookies every day.
Cookie decorating was always a huge deal in my house. My mother makes about 10 different types of cookies. Maybe more. Honestly, I've kind of lost track now that I don't get to see her make them over the course of a couple of weeks in early December. Macaroons, pecan pie bars, mint chocolate fudge and the aforementioned sugar cookies, pinwheels and spritz. There are others, to be sure, changing a bit each year, but those are the classics.
Since we've come to celebrate Christmas in Lawrence, we've come up with a new twist on the necessary cookie baking. My mom brings a sampling of the cookies she makes at home (see that pretty tin above). And then she makes and decorates sugar cookies with my son here.
The result is a family tradition that's been kept intact for 30 years.
I remember being in preschool, watching my mom cut and bake stars, trees, wreaths and candy canes. Then, once they were cool and we had a good chunk of time, we'd crank Mannheim Steamroller, huddle over the table, bowls of homemade icing thickly holding their appointed spoons, sprinkles at the ready and decorate until every last cookie was primped and primed into cookie stardom.
Well, my mother's sugar cookies were the stars. Mine were not.
Try as I might, I never — even as a teen or an adult — had the skill, patience and steady hand to properly decorate cookie after cookie without them turning into an accident at the Crayola factory.
My mother, on the other hand, could (and can) create endless little green sprinkle wreaths (each with their own bows), perfect red stripes to white-frosted candy canes and many other designs.
Time will tell if my son is more of a natural cookie decorator than I am. He probably will be, judging by the cookies he churned out for this Christmas (look at those pretty cookies above!).
Good thing we'll be decorating them again next year.
If you’ve been following this space for some time now, you will have noticed that I'm a seasonal eater, probably to a fault.
I’ve probably averaged a sweet potato per day since they started showing up locally months ago. Which means right about now is when my husband glares at the potato peeler with the sort of disdain he usually reserves for turnips and parsnips.
“So, this is when you make me hate sweet potatoes,” is what he said the other night.
Yep, I run those spuds and other cold weather delights—butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, etc.—into the ground for months. And months.
But seasonal goodies are too healthy and too cheap not to enjoy until the prices shoot up and the selection peters out.
My guess is, even if you’re hard core about trying to eat with the calendar, you get a little worn out of your faves after a few months, too. Totally understandable. Hey, it even happens to me sometimes (though, as I’ve discussed before, I’m a rut person. Repeat meals do not bother me).
So, I’ve been trying to think of ways of spicing up that favorite seasonal spud. My top pairings for punching up those everyday yams:
Sriracha. Everything tastes better with a dash of the red stuff. This is a personal favorite of my husband’s. He uses the spicy sauce on pretty much any vegetable that he doesn’t like or is sick of eating.
Cinnamon-flavored almond butter. Yes, this sounds weird. But I came to love the yam/flavored almond butter combo last year. If you have cinnamon or maple-flavored almond butter lying around, drizzle a bit on a potato. You could also add a hint of maple syrup, just to make it extra sweet. It’s kind of like pie in a bowl.
Cumin. Like Sriracha, cumin will add punch to pretty much anything. Sprinkle it while your potatoes are still warm, but use a VERY light hand. You can always add more, but too much is really hard to undo.
Hummus. I love adding hummus and a tad of Dijon to salads I made from baby spinach, roasted sweet potatoes and a bit of avocado.
Use it as a base. As I mentioned the other week, sweet potatoes make a great, hearty base for stew-y things like curry, Indian food, even just regular old vegetable soup.
I’m officially in CSA withdrawal.
For half the year, I get fresh vegetables every Monday whether I want them or not.
Pretty much all the time I want those bags of surprise vegetables, but when the little “planner” piece of me rears its ugly head and wants to know what’ll be in the fridge each week, I do sometimes wish I had a little more control for half the year.
With my CSA, Rolling Prairie, I only have a general idea of what we’re getting each week, usually loosely based on what I saw at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market the weekend before and sometimes through an email sent out each collection day. Not exactly helpful in meal planning.
And it’s so easy to get used to NOT meal planning. So much so that when I have full control over 100 percent of the food that I buy in a given week, I have no idea what I’m doing and I miss going to the store four times a week to pick up odds and ends for whatever I decide to make.
Now, with the CSA over and Thanksgiving behind us, I’m trying to get in the swing of actual, honest-to-God meal planning again. Something I was craving in July, but is so strange now.
Here’s how I’m easing into it. I’m explaining my process because I know it’ll just get out of whack again in a few weeks with the holidays and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way and want a simple starting point then, too.
My plan: Buy for two meals and only two meals.
Our cooking days, most of the time, are Sunday and Tuesday. So, I pick recipes (like our Butternut Squash and Black Bean Burritos) that I know make enough for leftovers. We make one meal Sunday night, have the leftovers Monday, make another Tuesday night and have the leftovers Wednesday or Thursday, depending on our family schedule for the week. We also usually cook Saturday and Sunday night, too, but that’s a little more fluid and less convenience-based because we don’t necessarily need leftovers, so sometimes we try a new recipe.
It isn’t a perfect system and sometimes ends with all of us staring at each other, trying to decide what to eat or what to order, but, for the most part, this seems to work wonders for us this time of year.
Do you plan your meals? If so, what’s your method?
I don’t know about you guys, but after the decadence that was the past Thanksgiving week, simple and healthy were on the top of my wish list for this week’s eats.
Not that I gorged on food day and night from Thursday through the weekend or anything. Though, it was tempting. That said, I did have quite a few of those pumpkin bars I wrote about last week, and my mom and I shared a good amount of dark chocolate between us.
But: It was a holiday. Time with family. Regret nothing.
So, Sunday night, we wanted to do a bit of damage control. A healthy meal that was easy, too. So we pulled out the crock pot and made a slow cooker curry, and rather than go for rice, we roasted some sweet potatoes and served the curry over the sweet potatoes. Unusual? Yes. Healthy? Yes. Delicious? You bet.
Slow Cooker Curry over Sweet Potatoes
1 pound cooked shrimp, defrosted if frozen (optional)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can coconut milk
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 sweet potatoes
More coconut oil
In a skillet or wok, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and stir-fry until softened. Add garlic, chile paste, curry powder and thyme and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, with juice, bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the pan.
Transfer everything in the pan into your slow cooker. Add coconut milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Thirty minutes before it’s done cooking, add the shrimp, if using.
Prepare your sweet potatoes: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Peel your potatoes and slice them into quarter-inch rounds. Lay rounds on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and rub coconut oil onto the exposed side of each round. Roast for 25 minutes, flipping over your rounds halfway.
At the 2-hour mark for the curry, add bell pepper and green onions, and cook another 15 minutes. Serve over warm, roasted sweet potatoes. Serves: 4.
OK, I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but — deep breath — here it goes: I am not a pumpkin pie person.
There, I said it.
Yes, I will eat pumpkin in pretty much any form. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, etc.
But when it comes down to it, do I like pumpkin pie enough to warrant the caloric penalty?
I can’t tell you why this is. Maybe it’s a texture thing. Maybe it’s not sweet enough. Maybe it’s because chocolate isn’t involved (I think pumpkin and chocolate are perfect companions).
But as someone who thinks dessert is a super important part of any holiday meal, I’ve been working on a solution for this year’s festivities. Last year I made cookies, but this time around I’m trying to get a little closer to pie.
You know, without crossing the line into what I don’t really like.
Luckily, I think I found a pretty good middle ground that will keep the pie lovers in my family happy without a mutiny from the people like me who want something a little different.
These pumpkin pie bars are super soft, giving them a texture somewhere between pie and cake. That’s a huge bonus to me, but there’s more: they really aren’t horrible for you.
Calling them “healthy” might be a stretch, but they don’t have any refined sugar or flour in them but they still taste great — that’s why I call them “sneaky.” Well, there’s a tad bit of sugar in the chocolate chips I sneak in, but you can leave those out if that tiny amount of sugar bothers you. These will still be good without them.
Note: The chocolate chips will sink to the bottom of the batter once you’ve but these in a pie plate. That makes these bars a little bit sneaky in another way because the chocolate is hidden like a little present in the bottom of each bar.
Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars
½ cup pumpkin
½ cup raw, unsalted almond butter
⅓ cup maple syrup or honey
½ cup chocolate chips
2 eggs or 2 flax eggs (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons water for each egg)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt (less if you happen to be using roasted almond butter)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a deep-dish glass pie plate with coconut oil. Set aside.
Put all ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir well. Once all of those ingredients are incorporated, stir in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into your oiled pie plate. Bake 25 minutes or until the the edges are golden and the center is firm. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. These store well in the fridge, as the cold helps them set up a bit more.
This week I was sick. A rare occurrence, honestly. I eat more than my fair share of vegetables, get my sleep, workout and wash my hands constantly. But I have a kid and he has little kid germs and every once in awhile, if whatever he has is especially potent, I’ll succumb, too. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I’m toast.
The first thing I did when I felt the aches coming on along with full lymph nodes and a scratchy throat? Reach for a pomegranate. The result is the bowl of seasonal pomegranate seeds and clementines you see above. A full day’s worth of vitamin C in that picture right there.
Once I was feeling 100 percent again, my little die-cold-die snack had me thinking. It took me a couple of years before I perfected my method for seeding a pomegranate. Years where I would’ve saved myself a lot of stain-related stress.
Because pomegranates are as messy to work with as they are delicious.
Each of those little seeds is basically a sac full of densely pigmented juice. That pigment signals all the antioxidants involved, but at the same time, you don’t want to get any of it on your clothes or counters.
So, here’s how to seed a pomegranate and minimize your chances of a stain or frustration. Plus, if you already know you like pomegranate seeds, this will save you money. Buying the seeds that are already prepared is usually twice as expensive as just doing it yourself.
Step 1: Fill a mixing bowl with water to about the halfway mark and set it in your sink. Cut off the “cap” of the pomegranate.
Step 2: Score the pomegranate five or six times down the length of the sphere.
Step 3: Holding your pomegranate underwater, pull a section loose.
Step 4: Holding the section underwater, force seeds in the section out into the water. Any juice released in the process will go into the water. The yellow-white pith will float to the top of the water. Scoop it away. It’s bitter and you really don’t want to eat that. Repeat until you’ve seeded every section.
Step 5: Scoop away as much of the pith as possible with your fingers. Strain the water out by pouring the contents of the bowl into a strainer. That’s it!
I love to have the seeds straight up and on top of things like salads, roasted root vegetables, oatmeal, etc. And, obviously, I love them mixed up with clementines — even when I'm not sick.
To start things off, let me just say that 2013 was a pretty darn good year to be a member of one of the many CSAs in the Lawrence area.
Unlike the past two summers, which were so hot things couldn’t grow, this one was varied enough that nearly every crop seemed to thrive, or at least produce a little bit.
When you’re buying a weekly share from a farm or a collective of farms like the one I subscribe to, Rolling Prairie, that sort of variety is exactly what you’re looking for.
Because we had such great weather, this year we received everything from okra to tat soi to melons to mushrooms from our CSA at various parts in of the season, which started in late spring and roared through October.
Just as I did last year, I tried to find my favorite recipes of this season.
It was tough to pick, but I went for a top five (in no particular order) plus two bonus cookie recipes I threw in during the season just to shake things up. The recipes range from a delicious double squash dish to an eggplant lasagna that was a lot of work but totally worth it.
Honestly, though they are things I made during the spring, summer and fall of 2013, I'm pretty sure they could be satisfying year-round.
Bonus cookie recipes:
What was the recipe that became your favorite over the 2013 CSA season?
This past week was officially the last week of our CSA season. Though, because you’ll have to pry my fresh, local vegetables out of my cold, dead hands, it’s actually not the last week for us.
Rolling Prairie has a “late” bag and we’re signed up. Meaning, we’ll be getting veggies until Thanksgiving.
But, because I know most of you who come to this space for CSA cooking inspiration are finished, we’ll be moving on to your regularly scheduled program of recipes and cooking inspiration for the remainder of the fall, winter and part of spring. That is, after this blog and next week’s which will be a roundup of our favorite recipes from the 2013 CSA season.
So, how’d we use our “last” week of Rolling Prairie produce for 2013? We made a twist on something we’ve been making all summer: spaghetti squash topped with delicious sauteed items.
Last week we got eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale. The leeks and green onions were perfect for dressing our spaghetti squash, so we did that while snacking on cherry tomatoes.
The results were really, really tasty.
Green Onion and Leek Spaghetti Squash
1 spaghetti squash
2-3 green onions, chopped
2-3 leeks, chopped
1-2 bell peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon oil for the frying pan, plus a little to rub on the squash (we used coconut oil)
Marinara, as needed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve your spaghetti squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and rub a little oil on the cut side. Place cut side down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until the squash is soft and ready to be scraped into noodles with a fork.
Once the spaghetti squash has finished in the oven, heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan/skillet/wok.
Add green onions and leeks, stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peppers and stir until they’re heated through.
Split spaghetti squash into serving bowls, top with onion-leek-pepper mixture, marinara sauce and cheese, if using. Enjoy. Serves: 4.
Admittedly, there are no local ingredients in the recipe I’m sharing today. I just felt like for the week of Halloween we all needed a cookie break.
A seasonal cookie break.
If you still need a little something to have around the house or bring to a party at Halloween, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are the cookie to bring.
Admittedly, they’re not the healthy fare I usually share in this space. But I don’t feel totally guilty, because you do get some modicum of vitamin A when you eat them (how’s that for rationalization?). But, really, eat them because they are totally, amazingly delicious.
Honestly, these cookies are my secret weapon this time of year. The recipe makes a ton, everyone always loves them and they are appropriate for everything from Halloween to Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup shortening, margarine or butter
1-½ cups sugar (I often use half coconut sugar)
¼ cup regular or soy yogurt (vanilla, plain or maple)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper on two cookie sheets.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour through cinnamon (all dry ingredients). Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together your shortening/margarine/butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the yogurt and then stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.
Gradually stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. When all combined, add chocolate chips.
Drop by the teaspoonful onto parchment. Flatten a bit with clean fingers. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Yield 50 cookies.
So, what’d we get on our last week of Rolling Prairie for 2013? Eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale.
Last week, I hit the major personal parenting goal of getting the kiddo to eat salad. It was marvelous.
While I basked in the glow of that achievement for the rest of the following week, I also tried to recreate it. And I did. Multiple dinner times in a row.
Because, even though it finally got cold enough to turn on the heat, I really don’t want to believe summer’s over.
My strategy for this? Salads for everyone! All the time! Salad, salad and more salad.
I might be in denial.
So, anyway, my possible denial turned into a soup and salad night, using nearly all local ingredients.
We made our favorite butternut squash and apple soup using Rolling Prairie CSA squash and local apples from the Lawrence Farmers’ Market and then pieced together a delicious salad using delicate CSA salad greens plus local clover sprouts.
It was a delicious pairing, even if those lovely greens are about to go on hiatus.
Straight-Forward Seasonal Salad
Per each salad:
Two handfuls microgreens/baby salad mix
Several slices cucumber
Handful chopped carrots
Sprouts (to taste)
Balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Mix all the ingredients together and serve.
What’d we get this week? One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant.