Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”

Easy, delicious summer squash

It was as good as it looks.

It was as good as it looks. by Sarah Henning

I know the date on the calendar assures us that summer is here (the temps are a good reminder, too), but it finally felt like summer in CSA land when we scored not only tomatoes but also summer squash in the same box from Rolling Prairie.

I was especially excited to see the squash because just recently I’d had some really delicious summer squash served up at Merchant’s Pub. It seemed simple enough: just summer squash sauteed with tomatoes. And the second I saw our little crooked-neck squash, I knew I’d have to try to recreate it. (Note to self: Why don’t I do this more often with great stuff I eat out?)

Though I had fresh tomatoes, thanks to the box, I decided to use canned diced tomatoes from our pantry. Mostly because I knew if I used all the brand new tomatoes in a single go, we’d be pulling our hair out in a few short days wishing we hadn’t used the fresh ones.

So, slicing the summer squash as thin as I could get it without breaking out the mandolin, I went to town, recreating the side we’d enjoyed so much. Pulled out the tomatoes, salt and pepper, olive oil and garlic and hoped for the best.

And the result was delicious. It wasn’t a frilly side dish or anything, but it was hearty and paired nicely with the salad, veggie burgers and leftover green onion potato pancakes we had for the rest of the meal.

Sauteed Summer Squash with Tomatoes and Garlic

1 pound or so summer squash, sliced thin

1 can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and let warm for a minute. Add in summer squash and tomatoes. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft, 5 minutes or more. Serve hot and season with salt and pepper. Serves 4 to 6.

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Icebox peanut butter cup bars perfect for summer

God, these are good.

God, these are good. by Sarah Henning

I know I’m all about the vegetables in this column, but I would be completely remiss if I didn’t share this fabulous recipe for a great summer dessert.

A healthy summer dessert, of course. But a great one, nonetheless.

I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, though I never eat them anymore. They just have too many ingredients I’d rather avoid. But luckily for me (and you), I’ve found this awesome healthy recipe that uses all-natural ingredients, healthy fats and unrefined sugars to create the same delightful flavor combination as those little cups of heaven.

Even better, they can be whipped up in 15 minutes, and just need an hour to freeze. That’s right, they don’t even need an oven or stove. A major bonus as temperatures get into the 90s.

I’ve made them many times and each time they haven’t disappointed. My hubby and the kiddo love them too. So much so that I’ve had to announce I’ll only make them once a week. Yes, they’re that good.

Note: To melt the coconut oil, stick it outside. Kidding. Sort of. What I tend to do is boil water in my electric kettle (avoiding the stove, of course), pour the hot water into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and then place a 1-cup measuring cup full of coconut oil over the water. It’s a sort of easy double-boiler method.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Chocolate crust:

3/4 cup ground almond meal

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Pinch of sea salt

Peanut butter filling:

1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Pinch of sea salt

Chocolate topping:

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and set it aside. In a medium bowl, stir together all of the chocolate crust ingredients until a moist dough is formed. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the lined loaf pan, and place it in the freezer to set.

To prepare the filling, you can use the same bowl to stir together the peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and salt. Depending on whether you’re using salted or unsalted peanut butter, you may want to add more salt to taste. Store-bought peanut butter cups are quite salty, so I like to add a generous pinch of salt to mimic that flavor. Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the peanut butter filling over the top, using a spatula to spread it out evenly. Return the pan to the freezer to set.

Rinse the mixing bowl, and use it again, if you choose, to make the final layer. Combine the cocoa powder, melted coconut oil, and maple syrup, whisking well to break up any clumps. Once the mixture has become a smooth chocolate sauce, pour it over the peanut butter layer, and return the pan to the freezer to set until firm, about an hour or two.

Once the bars are firm, grab the edges of parchment paper to easily lift the solid bar from the pan, and use a sharp knife to slice the bars into your desired size. Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to a month. (The bars become very firm if frozen for too long, so I prefer serving them from the fridge after the initial firming-up time.)

Makes about 15 bars.

— Recipe from www.detoxinista.com

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A new kind of Caesar salad

A simple, easy salad with a classic flavor.

A simple, easy salad with a classic flavor. by Sarah Henning

We’re starting to get see the beginnings of our local tomato season, thanks to area hothouse farmers. And while I can’t wait for real tomato season, I’m thrilled to get a chance at any good tomatoes after a winter of ho-hum out-of-season stock.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy these brand new babies over the last week or so has been in a simple salad of romaine and avocado. Everything about those flavors makes for a fresh, summery combination that is very much wanted on these sudden 90-degree days.

That said, though I normally make my own dressings or just stick to simple oil and vinegar preparations, I had a huge hankering the other week for Caesar dressing, though not for Caesar salad.

So, being a bit lazy, I bought some at the store and tried it out on my favorite summery salad combination.

In a word? Perfection.

It turns out Caesar salad doesn’t necessarily need to be all cheese and croutons. It’s great with a myriad of other flavors, including the bright and smooth tastes of tomatoes and avocados. The crunchy romaine base does its job either way.

Healthier Caesar Salad

1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 handful cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or one large tomato, chopped

1/2 avocado, chopped

Protein of your choice (optional — salmon or chicken might work well)

Caesar dressing of your choice

In a bowl, layer romaine, tomatoes and avocado. Top with protein if using and dressing. Enjoy. Serves 1 to 2.

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Overnight oats to fight off summer

Have oats, will travel.

Have oats, will travel. by Sarah Henning

If you’ve read my column over the years, you’ve probably noticed that particularly when it’s hot, I will do anything to avoid turning on the oven or stovetop in the summer. ANYTHING. And I’m betting to guess you all feel the same way.

This includes in the morning, by the way. Which can complicate things.

But lately we’ve been using a recipe that has really made it much easier to keep our cool for breakfast: overnight oats.

There are several versions of this on the Web, but the recipe we make is one that’s customizable and not very sweet to start off with, so it’s easy to adjust to three very different flavor profiles (the hubby's, the kiddo's and mine). Which means it’s the perfect way to make a breakfast everyone can enjoy.

And it’s perfect for people who can’t eat at home. I layered mine with blueberries and strawberries and added just a touch of maple syrup before twisting the lid on my mason jar and running out the door. At home, the boys will add brown sugar and bananas or raisins to theirs and enjoy it in a normal (cool) bowl.

Take that, summer!

Overnight Oats

2 cups rolled oats

3 cups nondairy milk (we used vanilla flax)

1/2 cup chia seeds

2 large, ripe bananas, well-mashed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a glass bowl with a lid, whisk together all ingredients. Cover with lid and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, give it a stir to make sure it’s combined. Serve as desired. Suggested serving: with fruit and maple syrup. Serves 6.

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Just beet it

They sort of look like ground hamburger in this pic, but these Quick Grated Beets are delicious.

They sort of look like ground hamburger in this pic, but these Quick Grated Beets are delicious. by Sarah Henning

Local beet season has begun. For beet lovers, that means about six weeks of uninterrupted, local deliciousness. For those who don’t have much love for the rosy roots, it can mean almost two months of avoidance tactics.

I am a beet lover. Always have been (thanks, Mom), always will be. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t. He’s more of a beet tolerator. He’ll eat them because I like them and because he has made a lifelong claim that he’ll pretty much eat anything (which is mostly true), but he most definitely doesn’t enjoy this time of year.

So, when we finally got a bunch of beets in our Rolling Prairie CSA, I was super surprised that he suggested we eat them. In a new side dish of all things.

Obviously, I was on on board.

Thus, because, amazingly, we haven’t made every recipe in the fabulous Rolling Prairie Cookbook by Merc savant Nancy O’Connor, we made for the first time a recipe that was quick and easy, even for a packed Monday night: Quick grated beets.

They were indeed super quick (we made them while reheating leftovers) and they were totally delicious (says the girl who ate three of the four servings). But, hey, the hubby ate one serving and suggested it.

That’s a total win right there. Thus, if your house is a house divided over beets, or even if it’s not, definitely give this little recipe a try.

Quick Grated Beets

4 medium-sized beets

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil (we used coconut oil)

1 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)

3 to 6 tablespoons water or vegetable stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chopped fresh dill or parsley

Wash, peel and coarsely grate beets. Heat butter or oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat. Add beets, and stir to coat well. Sprinkle with lemon juice, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally and add water or stock as needed to prevent scorching. Cook until just tender. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with dill or parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

— From "Rolling Prairie Cookbook" by Nancy O’Connor

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Fudgy pudding cake

It's not pretty, but it sure does taste good after a dinner of some great CSA veggies.

It's not pretty, but it sure does taste good after a dinner of some great CSA veggies. by Sarah Henning

I know I’m the one with the healthy eating column, but even I like to indulge from time to time. And usually if that indulgence makes it into this space, it’s obviously healthy.

That said, sometimes, an indulgence is an indulgence, even if it’s been modified a bit. And today’s recipe is just that: a slightly healthier version of an indulgence. But mostly it’s an indulgence in its own right.

But first: I’m sharing this indulgence along with an update to how our CSA eating is going this year. By now most everyone who has joined a local community supported agriculture program should have gotten a share or several to start off 2014.

For our family and our Rolling Prairie subscription (and probably yours as well) that has meant a lot of greens. For example, this week it was spinach, lettuce, mint, asparagus, peas and green onions.

It has meant a lot of side dishes.

Not that it’s a bad thing. No, it’s a very good, very tasty thing. Salads, roasted veggies and green smoothies have been on the menu for weeks now.

And because I’ve covered those well in this space, I decided it might be more prudent at this point to share what we had after one of those delicious meals featuring Rolling Prairie goodness: cake.

Honestly, I made this cake in all its pudding-like glory because my son requested it. I’d loaned the cookbook from which it’s adapted to a friend and just got it back and asked my 5-year-old to page through for a weekend dessert we could make. We had a family function planned, and I figured if I were going to make something for the masses, I should make sure my own kid would be excited about it first.

What he picked was something I’d never tried making in any capacity before (and I’ve done a lot of baking in my day). Yes, for some reason, I’d never attempted a pudding cake. I knew I liked them and their warm, gooey texture, but for some reason, I’d never tried making one. Must have been a baking blind spot, for sure.

That said, though it’s not the prettiest cake ever, this one got major brownie points for being super easy, relatively healthy (though it has more sugar in it than I typically use) and allergy friendly (no milk, eggs, wheat in it). We served it up with coconut milk ice cream, though in my opinion it didn’t really need it.

Kid-Friendly Fudgy Pudding Cake

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

1 1/2 cups oat flour

3/4 cup plus 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar, divided

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, divided

1/3 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup non-dairy milk (we used flax milk)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing the pan

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/4 cups boiling water

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a 7-by-11-inch glass baking dish with coconut oil. In a small bowl, whisk the ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the oat flour, 3/4 cup of the coconut sugar, 1/3 cup of the cocoa powder, the chocolate chips, salt and baking powder.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed mixture, non-dairy milk, coconut oil and vanilla. Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth out the top evenly with a spoon.

In a small bowl or mug, combine the remaining 1/3 cup coconut sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa powder. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter in the baking dish.

Slowly pour the boiling water over the cocoa powder mixture, ensuring the liquid completely covers the mixture. The cake will now look like a complete disaster, but this is normal. Promise.

Bake for 27 to 33 minutes, uncovered, until the cake is semi-firm on top but bubbly and gooey around the edges.

Let the cake cool for 5 to 10 minutes before digging in. If desired, serve with ice cream.

— Recipe adapted from Angela Liddon’s Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake recipe from "The Oh She Glows Cookbook")

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Oh, how does the garden grow

The kiddo with our two new garden beds. The wood one is for grapes, the stone one is for elderberries.

The kiddo with our two new garden beds. The wood one is for grapes, the stone one is for elderberries. by Sarah Henning

In addition to our CSA share from Rolling Prairie and our trips to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, my family always has another source of local produce in the spring and summer: our garden.

I’ve mentioned before that I’d looked forward to having a garden since before buying our house. I’d wanted one back when we owned a little Key West-style place in South Florida, but the “soil” (sand?) wasn’t really conducive to growing anything besides grass, and it barely did that. Therefore, moving to Lawrence was big.

From a single raised bed, our garden has grown to include (as of this year), three vegetable beds, three fruit beds (blackberries and strawberries in one, elderberries in another, and grapes in yet another), plus a bunch of herbs in our container garden and three fruit trees: cherry, peach and pear.

We don’t have an “urban” farm yet, and we probably never will, but I’m really happy with the how much our little garden has grown in the past few years. Really, it started out with just a hope to grow our own tomatoes. But once I really took a look at all the items we could grow ourselves in Kansas, the garden just — poof — exploded.

Have we gotten much of a return on all the time we’ve put in, planting, watering and weeding? Well, yes and no.

No in that we are probably candidates to write the sequel to that book, "The $64 Tomato". I keep track of what we spend on the garden each year, but I’ve never really plugged in what we’ve gotten for all that money. All I know is that some summers — the ones where we had consistent temps in the 100s — we didn’t get much at all.

But yes in that we’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment from the possibilities. We never know if we’ll get 100 tomatoes or one. If our blackberries will survive or die like the blueberries and raspberries before them. And when we have successes (you should see the blackberries!) it’s a pleasant surprise. Even more than that, it’s not just educational for me, it’s educational for my 5-year-old, who already knows so much more than I did about growing produce when I was double his age.

Happy gardening.

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One last curry, I promise

This curry takes less time to make than it would take to call in something similar and go pick it up. Plus, it's probably much healthier.

This curry takes less time to make than it would take to call in something similar and go pick it up. Plus, it's probably much healthier. by Sarah Henning

As you may have judged from my last post, I’m sort of obsessed with curry at the moment. Or for the entire seasons of fall, winter and spring. And it doesn’t seem to matter what type — Indian, Thai, a hybrid — I want it.

Luckily, for my rut-loving tendencies, there are all the above types of curry to spice things up, lest my husband and kiddo want to chuck me and all of our curry powder out of the house in a coup.

That hasn’t happened yet, though. So, if you’ll allow me, one last curry recipe before I hope it gets so warm, my stovetop goes on hiatus.

This curry recipe is also a great use for those final overwintered sweet potatoes before we get to the long wait for fresh local ones in the fall. If you don’t have sweet potatoes or want to make this dish a bit more “summery,” replace the sweet potato with a couple of peeled and chopped carrots.

This recipe also happens to have a similar flavor to restaurant-bought coconut-based curries, but is super simple to make. In fact, the most difficult part is waiting for the water to boil for the quinoa. My family’s single caveat with this recipe is that it isn’t very spicy, but it’s sweet, thus, my hubby likes to add Sriracha to his bowl.

Easy Coconut Curry

For the sauce:

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons curry powder

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk

1 tablespoon tamari, or soy sauce

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

To complete the dish:

1 sweet potato, chopped

1 pound assorted vegetables, chopped (we used frozen broccoli)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups water

To get started, combine the quinoa and water in a small saucepan over high heat, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, allowing the quinoa to cook for 15 minutes while you work on the curry sauce.

In the meantime, melt the coconut oil in a 3-quart saute pan over medium heat, and saute the onions and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the coconut milk, curry powder, tamari, maple syrup and salt and whisk well to combine. (Since curry powders can vary by brand, start with a smaller amount and add more to suit your tastes.)

Adjust any other flavors as needed, then bring the sauce to a simmer and add in the chopped sweet potatoes. Cover the pan, and allow the sweet potatoes to steam in the sauce for 5 minutes. Finally, add the rest of the vegetables, toss in the sauce to coat, then cover and allow to steam until fork-tender.

Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork, then serve with a generous portion of the vegetables and curry sauce. Serves two to four.

— Recipe from www.detoxinista.com

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Fresh, light summer curry

Light but hearty, chickpea curry is dinner in one bowl.

Light but hearty, chickpea curry is dinner in one bowl. by Sarah Henning

All winter long, it seems, I made curry. Thai curry, to be exact. I wrote about a few of them in this space. They were hearty and often served over sweet potatoes for extra nutrition, because I’m a little weird like that.

And I may be one of the luckiest foodies on the planet, because I was just gifted a perfect Indian curry recipe for summer.

One of my friends, Paffi, and I met for lunch the other day, and she brought with her a shopping bag. I was kind of oblivious, and just figured she’d gone on a grocery trip before lunch and didn’t want to leave whatever she’d bought in a hot car while we ate.

Turns out, the bag was for me.

Inside was a recipe for chickpea curry we’d talked about quite awhile ago, and ALL the ingredients I needed to make it.

Have I mentioned I have awesome friends?

Well, I do. And I had to make Paffi’s chickpea curry ASAP. We made it Sunday night, and not only was it super fast (the rice took longer to cook than the curry itself), it was also light and fresh and perfect for summer.

The curry features fresh Roma tomatoes and onion — two things we’ll have in season at the same time shortly — plus curry powder, and that was pretty much it. A little oil, a little cumin, and a whole lot of fresh, light flavor. This is not your winter curry. And the chickpeas make it super hearty.

Honestly, I can’t wait until the tomatoes and onions both are either from my garden, my CSA share, or the Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

Chickpea Curry

1 medium onion, diced

5 Roma tomatoes, diced

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup water (as needed)

Vegetable oil to saute (we used coconut oil)

1 teaspoon Deep curry powder (can be found at Indian food stores)

Salt

Cayenne powder to taste (optional)

¼ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)

2 cups cooked basmati rice

Naan

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add onions. Sprinkle salt to sweat the onions. Saute until translucent.

Add chickpeas and stir to incorporate into onions. Add curry powder and, if using, add cayenne and cumin. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in tomatoes and then add enough water to wet the bottom of the pan and scrape any caramelization.

Continue to cook and stir until the curry comes to a boil. Cover the pan. Lower heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add salt to taste and serve over rice or eat with naan. Serves 4.

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The case of the unloved asparagus

Asparagus: Oh, so delicious, unless you're five.

Asparagus: Oh, so delicious, unless you're five. by Sarah Henning

Sometime between last spring and this spring, my kiddo totally forgot that he loves asparagus. Last year, he’d eat the green or purple stalks, no questions asked. But this year?

No, no, no, no, get that away from me, no.

That’s a direct quote.

I’m sure anyone with kids/grandkids/imagines their life with kids reading this understands the fickle nature of a child’s taste buds — and the amnesia that goes along with it.

Once upon a time, my son ate all sorts of things that are utterly “Gross, mom, jeez!” He’d eat vegetable korma. Pad Thai. Even something as difficult to love as soup.

Today?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Today, he’ll try new things, but only within reason. Example: He’ll try papaya because it looks like cantaloupe or mango. Or those chia seed doughnuts I made, specifically because they look like doughnuts.

But foods he’s tried before that we swear up and down that he likes? Not unless it looks promising.

And, asparagus, my friends, doesn’t look promising. Too green, too plant-like (despite the fact that this kid will eat baby spinach leaves plain), too unfamiliar.

So, how do we get him to eat it?

Bribed the heck out of him.

Basically, though he’s 5, our kid doesn’t necessarily always have the same dinner we have. We’re still transitioning him into eating what we eat, no ifs, ands or buts. But I’m still too concerned about him not eating enough, that I’m not strict about this (maybe we’re training me and not him, then?).

Thus, sometimes he has exactly what we have but most of the time, he has our sides plus something else. Case in point: tonight we’re having fajitas with salad on the side. He’ll have salad, avocado, raw red peppers saved from the fajita pan and a quesadilla.

But we want to eventually get him to eat exactly what we eat for dinner. I’m not making him his very own specialized dinner until he’s 18. Plus, I want him to eat and enjoy foods that aren’t your everyday picks, like seasonal, delicious asparagus.

So we’ll do what I’m sure many parents will do. We say something along the lines of, “If you eat two pieces of asparagus, you can watch a cartoon after dinner. No asparagus, no cartoon.”

Usually, that does the trick. Sometimes, as is the case with soup for some reason (even potato chowder, aka “french fry soup”), he’ll just say, “I didn’t want to watch a cartoon.” Yeah, right, kid.

When I was his age, I distinctly remember having to eat the dinner my parents were eating, no substitutions. Therefore, I wonder if I’m being soft. Should I stop tailoring his meals? Should I wait until he starts kindergarten in the fall? Or should I just roll with it, and be happy that he eats really healthy even if he’s not eating exactly what we’re eating?

I don’t have the answer. I don’t know if I’ll ever know exactly what’s right. But I do know that trying to persuade him to eat food that's good for him can never be bad. Even if it comes with a side of bribery.

Now, for the real reason you’re here. An asparagus recipe we’re loving at the moment (even if the kiddo is still suspicious):

Asparagus with Lemon and Olives

1 pound asparagus

1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil, melted

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Sea salt and black pepper

1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Chop the ends off the asparagus and rinse under water. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the melted butter or coconut oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Roast for approximately 10-15 minutes, less time for thin asparagus, more time for thick asparagus.

While the asparagus is roasting, use a microplane grater to remove the zest from the lemon, and set the zest aside.

When the asparagus is bright green and fork tender, remove it from the oven, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and top with the lemon zest and halved olives.

— Recipe from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo

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CSA season is upon us!

Spring Soup with homemade veggie burgers.

Spring Soup with homemade veggie burgers. by Sarah Henning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Soup

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 cups chopped green onions

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

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

Several generous grinds black pepper

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

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

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

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

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

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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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