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Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”

Healthy doughnuts, part 2

Delicious, healthy doughnuts.

Delicious, healthy doughnuts. by Sarah Henning

When I last wrote about doughnuts, I told you I was really, really trying not to make doughnut making a “thing” for me. I’d had a doughnut pan literally for years and had avoided using it because I was sort of afraid of over-using it, if you know what I mean.

But here I am with another doughnut recipe.

I don’t know if only having two types of doughnuts in my repertoire counts as having a “thing,” but if we get to three, maybe I should slow down. But at least I can take solace in the fact that, again, these are healthy doughnuts. No refined sugar, full of omega-3 fatty acids from the chia seeds, and they’re insanely delicious.

In fact, they’re so delicious, we’ve made them three times in a week. The kiddo was a little suspicious at first because the chia seeds make them look a bit gray. But he was won over on the first bite and even stole part of mine after devouring his own quickly.

A few notes: If you don’t have a doughnut pan, a muffin tin works. And I happened to use Penzeys strong Vietnamese cinnamon. It’s so strong you’re supposed to cut the amount in a recipe by a third. I didn’t do that. Thus, if you make these and decide they need a little more cinnamon, add a touch more of the regular kind to the recipe the next time.

Out-the-Door Chia Power Doughnuts

3/4 cup gluten-free oat flour

1/2 cup chia seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup pure maple syrup or other liquid sweetener

1/3 cup non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease a 6-cavity doughnut pan with oil (I used coconut). Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oat flour, chia seeds, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Add the maple syrup, milk and vanilla and stir until combined. The batter will be runny but this is normal.

Bake the doughnuts for 22 to 26 minutes, until firm to the touch. A toothpick inserted into a doughnut should come out clean.

Cool the doughnuts in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then carefully invert the pan onto a cooling rack. The doughnuts should pop right out — if they don’t, let them cool a bit more and gently pull a knife along the edges of the wells to loosen them. Cool the doughnuts completely on the rack.

— Recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon

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Healthy soft serve ice cream

Soft-serve without the crap.

Soft-serve without the crap. by Sarah Henning

Like many kids, my 5-year-old is very much into the PBS show “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” which, for those of you who don’t have kids, is a cartoon spin-off of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

As you can expect from a pedigree like that, “Daniel Tiger,” as the kiddo calls it, is full of the sort of wholesome lessons Fred Rogers taught kids like me back in the ’80s. You know, songs about brushing your teeth, being nice to friends, sharing, etc.

But Daniel Tiger also has something going for him I don’t remember from the original show: excellent eating habits.

Included in the rotation of fruits and vegetables Daniel eats on the show as a good example to the kiddos watching is something Daniel calls “banana swirl.” Basically: frozen bananas in a blender.

On one of the warmer days we’ve had recently, the kiddo was hot to trot on making banana swirl just like Daniel Tiger. Good thing I’ve been making it for years (so glad he noticed).

There are tons of recipes out there for banana soft serve — so many that I forget where I first saw it, but no matter whose recipe you use, it’s a delicious cold snack on hot days that won’t leave you feeling guilty.

Now, unlike Daniel Tiger, I make my “banana swirl” in the food processor. That said, if you have a very powerful blender and no food processor, you can try this recipe with that. I’m sure someone reading this will have a Yonanas machine, in which case you probably already know and love bananas as soft serve.

Raspberry-Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

Per serving:

2 frozen bananas, sliced

Thawed frozen or fresh raspberries

Chocolate chips

In a food processor, blend frozen bananas, scraping down at the sides as needed, until a thick, soft serve texture is achieved (usually about 5 minutes). Top with raspberries and chocolate chips to taste.

Note: This works best if you make several servings at once, though how many depends on the size of your food processor. My food processor is 9 cups, and the minimum number of bananas I can get away with is 6. That said, mine also has a 4-cup bowl insert, and I can usually use 2 to 3 bananas in there just fine.

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Strawberries sans shortcake

Strawberries are great on their own, but add in a few extras and you have yourself one powerful snack.

Strawberries are great on their own, but add in a few extras and you have yourself one powerful snack. by Sarah Henning

It’s not that often that I write about snacks on this blog, and I’m trying to make up for that this year, with a few more ideas on what to eat when you’re hungry but not eating a meal proper.

Today’s particular snack is one I’ve been having after a run. It’s just enough to help me recover without making me so full that it’s hard to have lunch or dinner a few hours later.

It’s got fresh fruit for vitamin C and potassium, healthy omega-3 fatty acids a bit of medium-chain fatty acids — all great post-run for recovery and fighting inflammation.

Though, of course, you don’t need to go for a run to enjoy this. Any old time between meals is a great time. That said, you might want to eat this with some floss handy. Chia and hemp love to grunge up a perfectly good smile (be we won't hold it against them because they're so good for us).

Strawberry-Banana Power Bowl

5-7 strawberries, quartered

1 banana, sliced

1/2 tablespoon chia seeds

1/2 tablespoon hemp seed

Coconut milk, to taste

Maple syrup, to taste

Layer strawberries and banana in a bowl. Drizzle with coconut milk and maple syrup. Top with chia and hemp. Serves one.

Tip: I like to buy one of those miniature cans of coconut milk and put it in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to make your power bowl, open the can, pour the milk into a small bowl and then stir the cream and the liquid together. You’ll get something about the consistency of yogurt.

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The perfect pad thai

Homemade pad Thai, straight from the wok.

Homemade pad Thai, straight from the wok. by Sarah Henning

I’ve been a longtime lover of pad thai.

A connoisseur, really.

It’s one of my go-to treat foods after a marathon or ultramarathon. I’ve devoured it in probably every state I’ve ever visited. Honestly, if a restaurant has it on its menu, I’ll try it at least once, no matter where we are or what kind of restaurant it is.

Basically, the sweet and salty mixture is my idea of comfort food.

Thus, it was years ago that I first tried making it at home. I started using those pre-made kits you can buy of sauce and noodles.

But then I put on my big girl pants and started testing various recipes I found both online and in cookbooks. Some had a bazillion ingredients, including ones that are sometimes hard to find (aka fresh lemongrass). Others were so simple it seemed like the flavor might be lacking.

After years of trial and error, I’m happy to report that I finally have a favorite recipe.

Purists might balk in that this one doesn’t have the traditional fried egg and instead is full of veggies that aren’t typically part of the meal. That said, I can tell you that the combination of the sauce plus the noodles and the veggies is a totally perfect blend of taste and additional health benefits. And if you like the fried egg? Add it. Same goes for the mung beans often seen as part of a restaurant presentation.

Now, this makes a TON, but if you’re like me, you’ll keep going back to the wok for just a little more and just a little more until you really just need to stow away the leftovers, like, NOW.

Pea and Broccoli Pad Thai

14-ounce box of rice noodles

16-ounce bag frozen peas, defrosted

1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped

½ cup coconut palm sugar (You can sub brown sugar but it will be sweeter)

½ cup tamari

6 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Lime wedges, for garnish

Peanuts, for garnish

Boil rice noodles according to the package directions. When they’re draining, heat coconut oil in a wok or large sauté pan. Once the oil is melted, dump in peas and broccoli.

In a small bowl, whisk together coconut palm sugar, tamari and lime juice to create the pad thai sauce. Pour over the vegetables in the wok. Add in rice noodles and heat through.

Serve warm. Garnish with lime wedges and peanuts. Serves 6 to 8.

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That’s a wrap, winter

A wrap (unwrapped) to straddle that weird period at the beginning of spring.

A wrap (unwrapped) to straddle that weird period at the beginning of spring. by Sarah Henning

Sometimes, especially times like these when we are just starting a new season (hello, spring!), I end up taking an old favorite and changing it up a bit. You know, so it looks all fresh and shiny but pretty much tastes the same (because, as you know, I’m a rut girl).

Because the thing about entering a new season is that it doesn’t automatically come with new seasonal produce. Well, not initially. It’ll be at least another month before the early spring produce is available from local farmers. And I like to adjust what I’m eating based on what’s in season.

That said, I decided to turn a staple salad of mine into a wrap for dinner one evening. It just seemed like the type of night to avoid a fork. Plus, I’d already made sweet potatoes and had a perfectly ripe avocado. The husband approved and the kiddo threatened to eat all of our ingredients (without actually saying yes to a wrap). Go figure.

Yep, that's one giant wrap.

Yep, that's one giant wrap. by Sarah Henning

Start of Spring Wrap

1 large sweet potato

1 avocado

Baby spinach

Peppadew peppers, sliced in half

Hummus

Coconut oil

Salt

Pepper

2 wraps of your choice (I used gluten-free spinach)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice sweet potato into 1/4-inch rounds, and place them on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub coconut oil on each slice and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Flip the sweet potatoes and place them in the oven for 10 more minutes.

When the sweet potatoes have 5 minutes left, place each of your wraps flat on their own plates. Spread hummus on each wrap, top with spinach and peppadew peppers. Next, slice up the avocado and place half on each wrap.

Top off your wraps with fresh-from-the-oven sweet potatoes. Eat while warm. Serves 2.

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Blueberries get a faux summer treatment

Summer, are you there? It's me, Sarah.

Summer, are you there? It's me, Sarah. by Sarah Henning

I keep pretending the glimpses of warm weather we’ve been getting will actually last. And then Mother Nature comes in and rains (or snows) on my parade.

She might have control over the weather, but I have control over the kitchen. And this week I wanted a summer dessert.

That said, I wasn’t about to buy some anemic, out-of-season fruit to get there. Rather, my lifesaver was one of my favorite go-tos: frozen fruit. In this case, blueberries.

I’ve been avoiding regular flour, trying to figure out some stomach issues, so I made what I’m calling a "faux crumble” using almond flour and a bunch of other goodies. The result is something I think is pretty healthy as far as dessert goes. Plus, it’s super easy and quick to make, and tastes great straight out of the oven or leftover and chilled.

Blueberry Faux Crumble

2 8-ounce bags frozen blueberries, thawed to room temperature

Lemon juice

1 cup almond flour

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spread blueberries evenly across a 7x11-inch glass baking dish. Squeeze a good bit of lemon juice on top.

In a small bowl, mix almond flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and a little more lemon juice. Once combined, spread over blueberries as evenly as possible.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping has browned. Serve warm.

Note: Make sure all your ingredients are warm or room temperature. If they’re not, your melted coconut oil will start to harden again before baking. It will still bake properly, but the oil won’t be as evenly distributed.

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Healthy doughnuts (seriously)

Cake doughnuts without the refined sugar. Delicious.

Cake doughnuts without the refined sugar. Delicious. by Sarah Henning

I love to bake. LOVE it. Thus, I probably have every type of baker’s tool lying around somewhere in my kitchen cabinets — Silpat, candy molds, springform pan, French spatula, etc. And I’ve used everything I own at one time or another save for a single item that I’ve had for years: a doughnut pan.

I’ve had this doughnut pan ever since the giant going-out-of-business sale of the Pink Box bakery in early 2011. I bought it for $3 with good intentions. And then it just … sat there. Mostly because I was scared to use it.

OK, not scared. Terrified.

Because I knew if I did, I’d start something. Something I might not be able to stop.

You see, I LOVE doughnuts.

But I barely ever have them because, well, we all know they aren’t exactly healthy. And because of my love of them, it’s better that I don’t indulge. If I do, that will almost immediately turn into me finding another excuse to have them. And another. And pretty soon I’m having doughnuts every Saturday morning. (This exact thing happened in the weeks after my son was born and went on for MONTHS.)

So, I’d never used my doughnut pan.

And I don’t know what got into me, but sometime when the weather was acting up and about 30 degrees colder than we all know it should be, I decided I’d pull out the doughnut pan and see if I could make something healthy with it. I mean, because I’m all for being stuck inside when it’s snowy and cold with baked goods, but I just don’t want them to be a sugar bomb I regret even days later.

My first attempt? To make pumpkin doughnuts by adapting my Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars.

And you know what? They totally worked. I even made them twice to make sure. But they turned out perfect, and one recipe filled the pan exactly. And they taste GOOD.

Sure, I may have opened a can of worms (Thinking of trying coconut donuts next!) but at least I know I can make something without refined sugar or junk with my terrifying doughnut pan. That warms my little baker’s heart.

Healthy Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

½ cup pumpkin

½ cup raw, unsalted almond butter

⅓ cup maple syrup

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 six-doughnut pan well with with coconut oil. Set aside.

Put all ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir well.

Pour batter into your oiled doughnut molds, using an ice cream scoop or spoon to make spills less likely.

Bake 25 minutes or until the the edges are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center doughnuts comes out clean. Let cool completely before using a knife to pry the doughnuts out of their molds.

These store well in the fridge, as the cold helps them set up a bit more, though I stored them in the freezer and let them defrost a bit before using. Serves 6.

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Dreaming of June with beets

Can't hardly wait until these are local beets...stupid winter.

Can't hardly wait until these are local beets...stupid winter. by 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.

Ah, 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)

Baby spinach

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.

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Mini polenta pizzas a quick alternative to the real thing

Polenta, topped with pizza implements, and served alongside sauteed Brussels sprouts.

Polenta, topped with pizza implements, and served alongside sauteed Brussels sprouts. by Sarah Henning

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.

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Eat Your Veggies: (Healthier) cut-out cookies

Healthy and heart-warming.

Healthy and heart-warming. by Sarah Henning

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.

Yields 24.

— Recipe adapted from www.detoxinista.com

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Eat Your Veggies: National Pizza Day

Not bad for last-second pizza.

Not bad for last-second pizza. by Sarah Henning

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:

Just cheese and bread, please, Mom.

Just cheese and bread, please, Mom. by Sarah Henning

The hubby’s—cheese with red pepper, red onion and mushrooms

More traditional pizza: Red sauce, cheese, red pepper, red onion and mushrooms.

More traditional pizza: Red sauce, cheese, red pepper, red onion and mushrooms. by Sarah Henning

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)

My weirdo concoction that really was delicious.

My weirdo concoction that really was delicious. by Sarah Henning

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Eat Your Vegetables: Snow day prep

Our corgi struggles through a snow drift during the single winter we spent in Scranton, Pa.

Our corgi struggles through a snow drift during the single winter we spent in Scranton, Pa. by Sarah Henning

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

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Ginger cookies with a healthy twist

These ginger cookies are healthy and tasty: A perfect January treat.

These ginger cookies are healthy and tasty: A perfect January treat. by Sarah Henning

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

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Snack time

Trail mix: A satisfying and easy snack.

Trail mix: A satisfying and easy snack. by Sarah Henning

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:

  1. You could rush home to get the snack you didn’t bring, but chances are you won’t have time.
  2. 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!).
  3. 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.

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Room for dessert

Sometimes, you just need chocolate.

Sometimes, you just need chocolate. by Sarah Henning

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?

Chocolate.

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.

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Inspiration on ice

The kiddo (and the rest of the family) gobble these up. Twenty minutes in the oven and they're ready to go.

The kiddo (and the rest of the family) gobble these up. Twenty minutes in the oven and they're ready to go. by Sarah Henning

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

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It’s Jan. 1. Now what?

Healthy, homemade and real. It can happen for you in 2014.

Healthy, homemade and real. It can happen for you in 2014. by Sarah Henning

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:

  1. 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.

  2. “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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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Eat Your Vegetables: The beautiful tradition of holiday cookies

My mother's beautiful spritz.

My mother's beautiful spritz. by Sarah Henning

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.

My son's day of working the cookie line looks pretty delicious.

My son's day of working the cookie line looks pretty delicious. by Sarah Henning

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.

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Sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes as far as the eye can see (and what to do about it)

Sweet potatoes ... again.

Sweet potatoes ... again. by Sarah Henning

If you’ve been following this space for some time now, you will have noticed that I'm a seasonal eater, probably to a fault.

I’ve probably averaged a sweet potato per day since they started showing up locally months ago. Which means right about now is when my husband glares at the potato peeler with the sort of disdain he usually reserves for turnips and parsnips.

“So, this is when you make me hate sweet potatoes,” is what he said the other night.

Yep, I run those spuds and other cold weather delights—butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, etc.—into the ground for months. And months.

But seasonal goodies are too healthy and too cheap not to enjoy until the prices shoot up and the selection peters out.

My guess is, even if you’re hard core about trying to eat with the calendar, you get a little worn out of your faves after a few months, too. Totally understandable. Hey, it even happens to me sometimes (though, as I’ve discussed before, I’m a rut person. Repeat meals do not bother me).

So, I’ve been trying to think of ways of spicing up that favorite seasonal spud. My top pairings for punching up those everyday yams:

  1. Sriracha. Everything tastes better with a dash of the red stuff. This is a personal favorite of my husband’s. He uses the spicy sauce on pretty much any vegetable that he doesn’t like or is sick of eating.

  2. Cinnamon-flavored almond butter. Yes, this sounds weird. But I came to love the yam/flavored almond butter combo last year. If you have cinnamon or maple-flavored almond butter lying around, drizzle a bit on a potato. You could also add a hint of maple syrup, just to make it extra sweet. It’s kind of like pie in a bowl.

  3. Cumin. Like Sriracha, cumin will add punch to pretty much anything. Sprinkle it while your potatoes are still warm, but use a VERY light hand. You can always add more, but too much is really hard to undo.

  4. Hummus. I love adding hummus and a tad of Dijon to salads I made from baby spinach, roasted sweet potatoes and a bit of avocado.

  5. Use it as a base. As I mentioned the other week, sweet potatoes make a great, hearty base for stew-y things like curry, Indian food, even just regular old vegetable soup.

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Meal planning for dummies (or just those who forget how to because of CSA season)

I’m officially in CSA withdrawal.

For half the year, I get fresh vegetables every Monday whether I want them or not.

Pretty much all the time I want those bags of surprise vegetables, but when the little “planner” piece of me rears its ugly head and wants to know what’ll be in the fridge each week, I do sometimes wish I had a little more control for half the year.

With my CSA, Rolling Prairie, I only have a general idea of what we’re getting each week, usually loosely based on what I saw at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market the weekend before and sometimes through an email sent out each collection day. Not exactly helpful in meal planning.

And it’s so easy to get used to NOT meal planning. So much so that when I have full control over 100 percent of the food that I buy in a given week, I have no idea what I’m doing and I miss going to the store four times a week to pick up odds and ends for whatever I decide to make.

Now, with the CSA over and Thanksgiving behind us, I’m trying to get in the swing of actual, honest-to-God meal planning again. Something I was craving in July, but is so strange now.

Here’s how I’m easing into it. I’m explaining my process because I know it’ll just get out of whack again in a few weeks with the holidays and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way and want a simple starting point then, too.

My plan: Buy for two meals and only two meals.

Our cooking days, most of the time, are Sunday and Tuesday. So, I pick recipes (like our Butternut Squash and Black Bean Burritos) that I know make enough for leftovers. We make one meal Sunday night, have the leftovers Monday, make another Tuesday night and have the leftovers Wednesday or Thursday, depending on our family schedule for the week. We also usually cook Saturday and Sunday night, too, but that’s a little more fluid and less convenience-based because we don’t necessarily need leftovers, so sometimes we try a new recipe.

It isn’t a perfect system and sometimes ends with all of us staring at each other, trying to decide what to eat or what to order, but, for the most part, this seems to work wonders for us this time of year.

Do you plan your meals? If so, what’s your method?

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