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Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”

Lazy and healthy: Slow cooker curry over sweet potatoes

Curry over sweet potatoes? Sounds weird, tastes amazing.

Curry over sweet potatoes? Sounds weird, tastes amazing. by Sarah Henning

I don’t know about you guys, but after the decadence that was the past Thanksgiving week, simple and healthy were on the top of my wish list for this week’s eats.

Not that I gorged on food day and night from Thursday through the weekend or anything. Though, it was tempting. That said, I did have quite a few of those pumpkin bars I wrote about last week, and my mom and I shared a good amount of dark chocolate between us.

But: It was a holiday. Time with family. Regret nothing.

So, Sunday night, we wanted to do a bit of damage control. A healthy meal that was easy, too. So we pulled out the crock pot and made a slow cooker curry, and rather than go for rice, we roasted some sweet potatoes and served the curry over the sweet potatoes. Unusual? Yes. Healthy? Yes. Delicious? You bet.

Slow Cooker Curry over Sweet Potatoes

1 pound cooked shrimp, defrosted if frozen (optional)

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon mild curry powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice

1 can coconut milk

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 sweet potatoes

More coconut oil

In a skillet or wok, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and stir-fry until softened. Add garlic, chile paste, curry powder and thyme and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, with juice, bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the pan.

Transfer everything in the pan into your slow cooker. Add coconut milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Thirty minutes before it’s done cooking, add the shrimp, if using.

Prepare your sweet potatoes: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Peel your potatoes and slice them into quarter-inch rounds. Lay rounds on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and rub coconut oil onto the exposed side of each round. Roast for 25 minutes, flipping over your rounds halfway.

At the 2-hour mark for the curry, add bell pepper and green onions, and cook another 15 minutes. Serve over warm, roasted sweet potatoes. Serves: 4.

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Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars

There's a chocolate surprise at the bottom of these cake-like pumpkin pie bars.

There's a chocolate surprise at the bottom of these cake-like pumpkin pie bars. by Sarah Henning

OK, I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but — deep breath — here it goes: I am not a pumpkin pie person.

There, I said it.

Yes, I will eat pumpkin in pretty much any form. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, etc.

But when it comes down to it, do I like pumpkin pie enough to warrant the caloric penalty?

Nope.

I can’t tell you why this is. Maybe it’s a texture thing. Maybe it’s not sweet enough. Maybe it’s because chocolate isn’t involved (I think pumpkin and chocolate are perfect companions).

But as someone who thinks dessert is a super important part of any holiday meal, I’ve been working on a solution for this year’s festivities. Last year I made cookies, but this time around I’m trying to get a little closer to pie.

You know, without crossing the line into what I don’t really like.

Luckily, I think I found a pretty good middle ground that will keep the pie lovers in my family happy without a mutiny from the people like me who want something a little different.

It looks like pumpkin pie, but it's not!

It looks like pumpkin pie, but it's not! by Sarah Henning

These pumpkin pie bars are super soft, giving them a texture somewhere between pie and cake. That’s a huge bonus to me, but there’s more: they really aren’t horrible for you.

Calling them “healthy” might be a stretch, but they don’t have any refined sugar or flour in them but they still taste great — that’s why I call them “sneaky.” Well, there’s a tad bit of sugar in the chocolate chips I sneak in, but you can leave those out if that tiny amount of sugar bothers you. These will still be good without them.

Note: The chocolate chips will sink to the bottom of the batter once you’ve but these in a pie plate. That makes these bars a little bit sneaky in another way because the chocolate is hidden like a little present in the bottom of each bar.

These won't last long. I promise you.

These won't last long. I promise you. by Sarah Henning

Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars

½ cup pumpkin

½ cup raw, unsalted almond butter

⅓ cup maple syrup or honey

½ cup chocolate chips

2 eggs or 2 flax eggs (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons water for each egg)

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt (less if you happen to be using roasted almond butter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a deep-dish glass pie plate with coconut oil. Set aside.

Put all ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir well. Once all of those ingredients are incorporated, stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into your oiled pie plate. Bake 25 minutes or until the the edges are golden and the center is firm. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. These store well in the fridge, as the cold helps them set up a bit more.

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Seasonal skill: How to seed a pomegranate

About half a pomegranate with tangerine slices.

About half a pomegranate with tangerine slices. by Sarah Henning

This week I was sick. A rare occurrence, honestly. I eat more than my fair share of vegetables, get my sleep, workout and wash my hands constantly. But I have a kid and he has little kid germs and every once in awhile, if whatever he has is especially potent, I’ll succumb, too. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I’m toast.

The first thing I did when I felt the aches coming on along with full lymph nodes and a scratchy throat? Reach for a pomegranate. The result is the bowl of seasonal pomegranate seeds and clementines you see above. A full day’s worth of vitamin C in that picture right there.

Once I was feeling 100 percent again, my little die-cold-die snack had me thinking. It took me a couple of years before I perfected my method for seeding a pomegranate. Years where I would’ve saved myself a lot of stain-related stress.

Because pomegranates are as messy to work with as they are delicious.

Each of those little seeds is basically a sac full of densely pigmented juice. That pigment signals all the antioxidants involved, but at the same time, you don’t want to get any of it on your clothes or counters.

So, here’s how to seed a pomegranate and minimize your chances of a stain or frustration. Plus, if you already know you like pomegranate seeds, this will save you money. Buying the seeds that are already prepared is usually twice as expensive as just doing it yourself.

Ready. Set. Seed.

Ready. Set. Seed. by Sarah Henning

Step 1: Fill a mixing bowl with water to about the halfway mark and set it in your sink. Cut off the “cap” of the pomegranate.

Cut the top off.

Cut the top off. by Sarah Henning

Step 2: Score the pomegranate five or six times down the length of the sphere.

If you look closely, you can see the score marks.

If you look closely, you can see the score marks. by Sarah Henning

Step 3: Holding your pomegranate underwater, pull a section loose.

A up-close picture of a section, held over the water-filled mixing bowl in my sink.

A up-close picture of a section, held over the water-filled mixing bowl in my sink. by Sarah Henning

Step 4: Holding the section underwater, force seeds in the section out into the water. Any juice released in the process will go into the water. The yellow-white pith will float to the top of the water. Scoop it away. It’s bitter and you really don’t want to eat that. Repeat until you’ve seeded every section.

It's a little murky in there, but there's the seeds of four pomegranates in there under the water and floating pith.

It's a little murky in there, but there's the seeds of four pomegranates in there under the water and floating pith. by Sarah Henning

Step 5: Scoop away as much of the pith as possible with your fingers. Strain the water out by pouring the contents of the bowl into a strainer. That’s it!

Seeds from four large pomegranates. Deliciousness for days.

Seeds from four large pomegranates. Deliciousness for days. by Sarah Henning

I love to have the seeds straight up and on top of things like salads, roasted root vegetables, oatmeal, etc. And, obviously, I love them mixed up with clementines — even when I'm not sick.

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Cooking away the CSA: 2013 best recipes recap

Fruit on salad was a big hit this CSA season.

Fruit on salad was a big hit this CSA season. by Sarah Henning

To start things off, let me just say that 2013 was a pretty darn good year to be a member of one of the many CSAs in the Lawrence area.

Unlike the past two summers, which were so hot things couldn’t grow, this one was varied enough that nearly every crop seemed to thrive, or at least produce a little bit.

When you’re buying a weekly share from a farm or a collective of farms like the one I subscribe to, Rolling Prairie, that sort of variety is exactly what you’re looking for.

Because we had such great weather, this year we received everything from okra to tat soi to melons to mushrooms from our CSA at various parts in of the season, which started in late spring and roared through October.

Just as I did last year, I tried to find my favorite recipes of this season.

It was tough to pick, but I went for a top five (in no particular order) plus two bonus cookie recipes I threw in during the season just to shake things up. The recipes range from a delicious double squash dish to an eggplant lasagna that was a lot of work but totally worth it.

Honestly, though they are things I made during the spring, summer and fall of 2013, I'm pretty sure they could be satisfying year-round.

Fruity Starter Salad

Pizza-Tinged Mushrooms

Lasagna made with eggplant as the noodles was totally worth every minute spent in the kitchen.

Lasagna made with eggplant as the noodles was totally worth every minute spent in the kitchen. by Sarah Henning

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagna

Roasted Beets

Double Squash Skillet

Bonus cookie recipes:

Local honey works perfectly in these flourless peanut butter cookies.

Local honey works perfectly in these flourless peanut butter cookies. by Sarah Henning

Honeyed Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

What was the recipe that became your favorite over the 2013 CSA season?

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Cooking away the CSA, week 30: Leeks and onions, oh my

Leeks and green onions have cancer-fighting properties and taste delicious.

Leeks and green onions have cancer-fighting properties and taste delicious. by Sarah Henning

This past week was officially the last week of our CSA season. Though, because you’ll have to pry my fresh, local vegetables out of my cold, dead hands, it’s actually not the last week for us.

Rolling Prairie has a “late” bag and we’re signed up. Meaning, we’ll be getting veggies until Thanksgiving.

But, because I know most of you who come to this space for CSA cooking inspiration are finished, we’ll be moving on to your regularly scheduled program of recipes and cooking inspiration for the remainder of the fall, winter and part of spring. That is, after this blog and next week’s which will be a roundup of our favorite recipes from the 2013 CSA season.

So, how’d we use our “last” week of Rolling Prairie produce for 2013? We made a twist on something we’ve been making all summer: spaghetti squash topped with delicious sauteed items.

Last week we got eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale. The leeks and green onions were perfect for dressing our spaghetti squash, so we did that while snacking on cherry tomatoes.

The results were really, really tasty.

Green Onion and Leek Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash

2-3 green onions, chopped

2-3 leeks, chopped

1-2 bell peppers, chopped

1 tablespoon oil for the frying pan, plus a little to rub on the squash (we used coconut oil)

Marinara, as needed

Cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve your spaghetti squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and rub a little oil on the cut side. Place cut side down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until the squash is soft and ready to be scraped into noodles with a fork.

Once the spaghetti squash has finished in the oven, heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan/skillet/wok.

Add green onions and leeks, stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peppers and stir until they’re heated through.

Split spaghetti squash into serving bowls, top with onion-leek-pepper mixture, marinara sauce and cheese, if using. Enjoy. Serves: 4.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 29: Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

These cookies aren't my usual healthy fare, but I don't think you'll mind.

These cookies aren't my usual healthy fare, but I don't think you'll mind. by Sarah Henning

Admittedly, there are no local ingredients in the recipe I’m sharing today. I just felt like for the week of Halloween we all needed a cookie break.

A seasonal cookie break.

If you still need a little something to have around the house or bring to a party at Halloween, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are the cookie to bring.

Admittedly, they’re not the healthy fare I usually share in this space. But I don’t feel totally guilty, because you do get some modicum of vitamin A when you eat them (how’s that for rationalization?). But, really, eat them because they are totally, amazingly delicious.

Honestly, these cookies are my secret weapon this time of year. The recipe makes a ton, everyone always loves them and they are appropriate for everything from Halloween to Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup shortening, margarine or butter

1-½ cups sugar (I often use half coconut sugar)

¼ cup regular or soy yogurt (vanilla, plain or maple)

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper on two cookie sheets.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour through cinnamon (all dry ingredients). Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together your shortening/margarine/butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the yogurt and then stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.

Gradually stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. When all combined, add chocolate chips.

Drop by the teaspoonful onto parchment. Flatten a bit with clean fingers. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Yield 50 cookies.

So, what’d we get on our last week of Rolling Prairie for 2013? Eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale.

Our final pick up of the year for Rolling Prairie: eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes (not pictured because the kiddo ate them), kale, leeks, green onions and peppers.

Our final pick up of the year for Rolling Prairie: eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes (not pictured because the kiddo ate them), kale, leeks, green onions and peppers. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 28: Soup and salad

Don't go, leafy greens! Don't go!

Don't go, leafy greens! Don't go! by Sarah Henning

Last week, I hit the major personal parenting goal of getting the kiddo to eat salad. It was marvelous.

While I basked in the glow of that achievement for the rest of the following week, I also tried to recreate it. And I did. Multiple dinner times in a row.

Because, even though it finally got cold enough to turn on the heat, I really don’t want to believe summer’s over.

My strategy for this? Salads for everyone! All the time! Salad, salad and more salad.

I might be in denial.

So, anyway, my possible denial turned into a soup and salad night, using nearly all local ingredients.

We made our favorite butternut squash and apple soup using Rolling Prairie CSA squash and local apples from the Lawrence Farmers’ Market and then pieced together a delicious salad using delicate CSA salad greens plus local clover sprouts.

It was a delicious pairing, even if those lovely greens are about to go on hiatus.

Straight-Forward Seasonal Salad

Per each salad:

Two handfuls microgreens/baby salad mix

Several slices cucumber

Handful chopped carrots

10 olives

10 almonds

Sprouts (to taste)

Balsamic vinegar (to taste)

Mix all the ingredients together and serve.

What’d we get this week? One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant.

One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant.

One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 27: Salads for the whole family (including the kiddo)

A boy and his salad.

A boy and his salad. by Sarah Henning

My kid really does eat amazingly well for a pre-K child. I’ve discussed many times that he does a pretty good job, even if he’s just like any other kid in that he’d take cookies over carrots any time.

That said, if there’s one thing I’ve barely ever gotten him to try, it’s salad.

I’m sure most parents have this problem. In fact, I’m pretty sure if I had a salad before age 13, it was probably just iceberg lettuce drowning in Dorothy Lynch. Totally healthy, of course.

So, I’m not one to expect a 4-year-old to eat salad. Even mine, who, like I said, does a really good job of eating his fruits and vegetables.

Therefore, I was quite surprised when the kiddo wanted to make salad as part of his dinner this week, we were all for it. His version of salad? Sliced CSA cucumbers, carrots and celery. Not a single leafy green in sight, but I’ll take it. His quote, while making sure I tried it: “Don’t put dressing on it, Mommy, it’s delicious.” And it was.

Meanwhile, we made our own Mommy/Daddy salad using more goodies we got from Rolling Prairie last week: Roasted sweet potatoes over CSA salad greens, topped with CSA roasted peppers, garlic olive oil and a bit of Landeria goat cheese.

The roasted CSA peppers really made this one.

The roasted CSA peppers really made this one. by Sarah Henning

What’d we get this week? Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers

Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers.

Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 26: When seasons cross, and the dinners they bring

A salad for summer and fall.

A salad for summer and fall. by Sarah Henning

We’ve come to the time of year where winter squashes and tubers are sharing table space with tomatoes and cucumbers at local CSAs and the Lawrence Farmers' Market.

For instance, we got eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers last week from Rolling Prairie.

It seems totally odd, right? Even though these items share shelf space in the produce department of nearly every grocery store in America year-round.

Makes you think about our industrial food system a bit, eh?

And you know what? There’s nothing that says we can’t enjoy some of these summer-fall goodies in the same meal, or even in the same dish.

This week, I was so intent on achieving that goal that I made a salad that included not only roasted sweet potatoes but also tomatoes (yep) and delicate baby greens.Probably could’ve thrown some tat soi and cooked eggplant in there, too, if I’d had my wits about me.

Yes, it sounds strange, but if you find your kitchen full of these seemingly incompatible items, give this dish a try — if you can actually make the potatoes and not eat them all off the pan by themselves while waiting for them to cool enough not to wilt your lettuce.

I love sweet potato season.

I love sweet potato season. by Sarah Henning

Slightly Sweet Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 medium to large sweet potatoes, sliced into quarter-inch rounds, skin removed

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place sliced sweet potatoes on one to two cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper. Using a clean finger, rub a little coconut oil on the top side of each sweet potato slice. If you don’t use all the coconut oil, that’s OK.

Next, combine coconut sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle onto oiled potatoes.

Roast potatoes for 15 minutes. Flip. Roast for another 15 minutes or so until soft and browning.

Enjoy alone or on the salad below.

Mixed-Up Season Salad

Per salad:

Handful mixed salad greens

Handful cherry or grape tomatoes

¼ chopped avocado

5-6 roasted sweet potatoes (above) slices, halved and cooled

Throw all ingredients in a bowl. Cover with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or your favorite dressing. Enjoy.

This week's haul: Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and peppers.

This week's haul: Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and peppers. by Sarah Henning

What’d we get this week? Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peppers.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 25: Eggplant lasagna, hold the noodles

Such a pretty eggplant.

Such a pretty eggplant. by Sarah Henning

We’re almost to the end of the CSA season. Not totally there yet, but we probably have a month to go if we’re super lucky. So sad.

But we’re enjoying it while we can.

And we totally enjoyed this week’s Rolling Prairie CSA cooking experiment, which was basically an eggplant parmesan and cheese lasagna combined into one minus the noodles, minus the parmesan.

Say what?

I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs that happened to use thinly cut eggplant as the noodles in a lasagna. It also included mushrooms and a sneaky bit of cauliflower in a way that I thought might entice the kiddo.

It took some work (I made it on a weekend night), but it was totally worth it and we had enough leftovers for two more dinners. Plus, not only did it use our CSA eggplant, but it used our CSA garlic from a few weeks ago and an onion and our mushrooms (plus more that we bought to make it work) from this week.

Thus, this one has all the markings of a new family favorite. The kiddo even tried a bite. Yay for small victories.

One finished serving.

One finished serving. by Sarah Henning

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagna (from Detoxinista.com)

For the “noodles”:

1 large eggplant A splash of balsamic vinegar

For the “cauliflower ricotta”:

1 head cauliflower, or about 4-5 cups of florets

2 eggs

1/2 cup soft goat cheese (chevre)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper

For the mushroom “meat”:

1 teaspoon butter or coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

half of an onion, chopped

1 pound assorted mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and pepper

For Assembling:

A jar of your favorite marinara sauce

Goat mozzarella, shredded (we just used more chevre because we couldn’t find this)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then, like traditional lasagna, we must first prepare all of the layers.

For the noodles:

Using a mandolin, slice the eggplant lengthwise into thin strips. You may peel it first, if you like, but I took the easy route and left the skin on. Place the eggplant slices in a dish, and toss with a bit of balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice). Set aside to let marinate.

For the cauliflower ricotta:

Pulse the raw cauliflower florets in a food processor to make “rice.” Then steam, strain and squeeze out the excess moisture, leaving the cooked rice fairly dry. Transfer the strained cauliflower rice to a mixing bowl, and add in the two beaten eggs, goat cheese, oregano, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well, and set aside.

For the mushroom “meat” layer:

In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter or coconut oil and saute the garlic and chopped onions for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.

While the onions and garlic are cooking away, gently pulse the mushrooms in a food processor, until a “ground beef” like texture is achieved.

Add the ground mushrooms to the sauteed onions and garlic, and season with ground cumin, salt and pepper. Saute until tender. The mushrooms will release some moisture, so be sure to strain well after cooking, and set aside.

To Assemble:

Begin by adding a thin layer of marinara sauce to the bottom of your glass dish — this will prevent sticking.

Next, layer on the eggplant slices, followed by half of the cauliflower ricotta, followed by half of the mushroom meat, a drizzle of marinara sauce and a bit of shredded goat mozzarella.

Repeat the layers, then top it all off with a final layer of eggplant slices, topped with more marinara and shredded goat mozzarella.

A couple of layers...

A couple of layers... by Sarah Henning

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

The finished lasagna should be firm, with a crispy layer of cheese on top!

Slice and serve hot! Serves 8.

What’d we get this week? More eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 24: Becoming OK with okra

A bunch of chopped CSA okra.

A bunch of chopped CSA okra. by Sarah Henning

Er, so this column is called “Eat Your Vegetables,” but, I have a confession: There are a few vegetables that I’d rather not eat.

Oh, the scandal.

But I do try. And that’s part of the beauty of joining a CSA like Rolling Prairie: You have to try because you come home with a bunch of veggies, whether you like them or not.

Last week we got: Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens. And I bet you know exactly which veggie in that lineup isn’t a regular in my house.

Okra.

I know plenty of people who love it. Heck, my parents live in the South and I see it around all the time when I go down there. But I didn’t grow up eating it (in Kansas) and have never really sought it out as an adult. Sometimes it’s in Indian food, and I’ll eat that, but make it at home? Not really my cup of tea.

But the great thing about having a CSA, besides fresh veggies every week, is that usually you don’t get to pick and choose, and sometimes have to just bite the bullet and try something you’d rather not have.

So, the hubby and I looked for a way to cook the okra as something we’d appreciate. The recipe we settled on used up not only our okra but a bunch of our CSA tomatoes and CSA garlic. Triple bonus!

It was really tasty, though we had to halve the recipe because we didn’t have enough okra. Still, it was something I’d definitely try again if okra ends up in my crisper.

Okra stew, served on a plate, because we were feeling daring.

Okra stew, served on a plate, because we were feeling daring. by Sarah Henning

Okra Stew with Tomatoes (“How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, halved and cut into thick slices

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound okra, trimmed

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

4 cups chopped tomato (we used fresh but canned works too)

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (optional)

Chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep skillet or large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and turning golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add the remaining oil to the pot and stir in the okra. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown a little, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring once or twice. Return the onion to the pot and add the tomato, along with a cup of water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles gently. Cook, stirring every once in a while, until the okra is very tender and the sauce has thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir in the oregano if you like, then taste and adjust the seasoning and serve, garnished with parsley.

What’d we get this week from Rolling Prairie? Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers.

Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers.

Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 23: Quick and seasonal side salad

Easy, no excuses salad.

Easy, no excuses salad. by Sarah Henning

If you've followed this column for a long time, you know that salad is always my default. It's my best friend at dinner and lunch, and my old stand-by when I have no idea what to make.

And even though I'm tight with the little green bowl of awesome, I'm well aware that I'm not in the majority. Homemade salads can seem like work. So many ingredients to have. So many things to chop. So much ... green.

I actually used to think the same thing. As in: If I didn't get my ingredients from a salad bar, I'd be chopping and prepping until my stomach pulled rank on me and sent me straight for the easy button (aka a sandwich, crackers, chocolate chips, etc.). Plus, I didn't really think it was a salad without certain things on hand, like store-bought dressing or tomatoes or (when I ate it) cheese.

But, over time, I've come to love the "kitchen sink" qualities of the dish. Really, once you figure out what you like in your salads, you can pretty much throw together one you'll enjoy without any planning (or thought) at all. Eventually, it becomes quicker than making anything else, and so satisfying that it's worth the wait if you have to do a bit of chopping.

This week's salad is a perfect example. It was totally thrown together at the last minute to go along with some leftover fajitas, but it was delicious, healthy and used up some of our delicious bounty from our Rolling Prairie CSA share.

Quick and Seasonal Side Salad

2 handfuls baby spinach

1 red bell pepper, chopped (from our CSA)

1 carrot, chopped

10 garlic-stuffed olives, chopped

1/4 cup almonds

Olive oil and lemon juice, drizzled on to taste

Divide all ingredients among two bowls. Enjoy. Serves 2.

What’d we get in our Rolling Prairie CSA this week? Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 22: Frosty melon chiller

Cantaloupe plus spinach plus mint equals one really cool drink.

Cantaloupe plus spinach plus mint equals one really cool drink. by Sarah Henning

Last week, we got a huge, sweet-smelling cantaloupe as part of a major CSA haul: slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot peppers, bok choy, edamame and said cantaloupe.

In my eyes, it was the perfect variety, especially on a week that would be nuclear-hot by the end.

And, though it was a lot, I can honestly say we used everything. Making fajitas, stir-fry and keeping cool with a really delicious smoothie.

I’ve made a version of this smoothie before, but it was super hot and I felt like I needed an extra nutrient boost because I’d gone on a long run and really needed to be rehydrated with some good stuff. So, I decided to add mellow spinach to my icy-cool cantaloupe smoothie. It worked really well, and added to the green rush brought on by the mint.

Unfortunately, my mint plants have turned brown with the weather (I have faith they’ll bounce back), so I had to use mint extract instead of real leaves. I prefer real leaves, but I needed to drink something right then and I didn’t want to trudge to the store just for a few leaves.

Cool Green Cantaloupe Chiller

½ cantaloupe, chopped or spooned out of rind

2 handfuls baby spinach

Few mint leaves or drop of mint extract

2-3 ice cubes

Water, as needed

Put all ingredients in blender. Add just enough water to get above the blades. Blend. Serves 1-2.

So, what’d we get this week from Rolling Prairie? Two kinds of tomatoes, garlic, green beans, potatoes, basil, cucumber, bell peppers and cantaloupe.

Two kinds of tomatoes, garlic, green beans, potatoes, basil, cucumbers, bell peppers and cantaloupe.

Two kinds of tomatoes, garlic, green beans, potatoes, basil, cucumbers, bell peppers and cantaloupe. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 21: Creamy and sweet summer salad

A healthy salad: Devoid of anything fake, but full of lots of good fat.

A healthy salad: Devoid of anything fake, but full of lots of good fat. by Sarah Henning

It has come to my attention that maybe a few of my readers are afraid of the big F-A-T word when it comes to eating.

I’ve mentioned this before and I’m going to say it again: I, too, was once scared of F-A-T making me F-A-T.

But, as part of my growth in understanding food as fuel and how our bodies work, I’ve also come to love that big, scary macronutrient.

So, let’s get this out there: Not all fat is bad.

Not in the slightest.

There is a reason an avocado is all monounsaturated (aka heart-healthy) fat. There’s a reason nuts and seeds are full of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. There’s a reason the fat in coconut oil happens to be medium-chain saturated fat, which the body loves to burn for energy.

We are meant to eat fat.

Real, naturally occurring F-A-T.

What we’re not meant to eat are the fake, processed foods completely devoid of their original, natural fats. Or “foods” created in such away that they are more chemicals than technical food. This is not food, even if it’s “low-fat.”

I’ll repeat: This is not food.

I could get on my soap box and go on and on about this. But I’ve only got so much space, so just believe me when I say: Do your research.

Know how food as fuel is supposed to work.

And then stop buying denatured crap. Buy real stuff.

Focus on real food.

Do not focus on numbers and percentages and labels — if you really want to avoid the Standard American Diet (aka the SAD diet) don’t buy food with labels at all.

End soap box rant.

So, in light of this discussion, I’m going to share a recipe made with REAL food, that’s full of GOOD FAT.

It combines our Rolling Prairie CSA cherry tomatoes with fresh spinach, ripe raspberries, avocado, hemp seed and a simple drizzle of olive oil and white balsamic with a squeeze of lemon.

Healthy, real and most definitely not SAD.

Creamy and Sweet Summer Salad for two.

Creamy and Sweet Summer Salad for two. by Sarah Henning

Creamy and Sweet Summer Salad

2 handfuls baby spinach

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 6-ounce container of raspberries

1 tablespoon hemp seed, divided

1-2 avocado, divided

Good-quality olive oil (I used Extra Virgin's garlic-infused olive oil)

White balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)

Lemon juice

Line the bottom of two salad bowls with baby spinach. Top with 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes and half a container of raspberries. Place 1/2 tablespoon of hemp seed in each bowl, along with 1/4 of a whole avocado. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, a splash of balsamic and finish with a bit of lemon juice. Enjoy. Serves 2.

What’d we get this week? The motherload of: slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot peppers, bok choy, edamame, cantaloupe.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 20: Taking the kitchen outside

Grilled eggplant with tomato and goat cheese.

Grilled eggplant with tomato and goat cheese. by Sarah Henning

I always love the idea of eggplant.

They’re beautiful.

They’re tasty.

And I have a very, very bad habit of neglecting them. I buy them, or pick them from my Rolling Prairie CSA choices, look at their glorious purple skins a tad bit too long and end up doing absolutely nothing with them.

It’s a total shame.

If not for the fact that my compost pile also gets their tasty little ruined forms, but for the fact that they happen to be one of the hubby’s favorite foods. The man loves eggplant Parmesan about as much as he loves apple pie.

But it is too dang hot to make eggplant Parmesan.

Yet, we ended up both buying some eggplant at the Lawrence Farmers' Market on Saturday and then ended up getting two eggplants, along with tomatoes (slicing and grape), cucumbers, melon and little sweet peppers) in our Rolling Prairie CSA last Monday.

And I knew I couldn’t just let four of these precious little beauties waste away.

So, we took to the Internet and found the perfect recipe. Used up all four eggplant in making this special dish not once but twice this week. And, thus, avoided dropping our purple beauties in the compost pile.

Eggplant on the grill.

Eggplant on the grill. by Sarah Henning

Grilled Eggplant Topped with Goat Cheese and Tomato (adapted from The Kitchn) serves 2

2 medium eggplants*

1/3 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons honey balsamic vinegar OR 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar

3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1 stalk Italian parsley, leaves only, minced (we didn’t use them)

Small handful fresh chives, chopped (we didn’t use them)

Salt and pepper

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Slice the eggplants into rounds about 3/4-inch thick. Salt lightly and set aside. Heat the grill (or stove-top grill pan) to high heat.

Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and lightly dunk the eggplant slices so each is moist with the oil. Place them on the heated grill and cover. Cook, turning halfway through, for 8-10 minutes, or until they are as soft as you prefer.

Meanwhile, toss the chopped tomatoes with the minced herbs and mix with just a little salt and pepper to taste.

In the last couple minutes of cooking, sprinkle each eggplant slice with a few crumbles of goat cheese and cook so that the cheese begins to soften. Remove the slices, top with the tomato mixture, and serve!

*Baby eggplants, or the long, skinny Asian eggplants, are best, but smallish purple globe eggplants will do.

What’d we get this week? Tomatoes (slicing and cherry), cucumbers, garlic, green beans, bell peppers, potatoes.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, green beans, bell peppers and potatoes.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, green beans, bell peppers and potatoes. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 19: Summer by the forkful

Salad. Salad. Salad.

Salad. Salad. Salad. by Sarah Henning

Usually my family food goals revolve around attempting to plan meals and using up everything in our fridge, but last week it was something else entirely.

I was determined to get as many bits of our last CSA box from Rolling Prairie into a single salad as possible.

Hey, it’s good to have goals, right?

So, what was I trying to shoehorn? Summer squash, edamame, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, a cucumber and green beans.

We wanted to save the watermelon for dessert and the summer squash later to grill, so I threw the rest of the ingredients into a salad and called it good. (This is after boiling the green beans and edamame a bit, because they wouldn’t have been very tasty if we’d just thrown them directly in a salad, unfortunately.)

I used a bit of all of our CSA veggies... almost.

I used a bit of all of our CSA veggies... almost. by Sarah Henning

I'd say that pretty pic right there equals success.

Spoils of Summer Chopped Salad

Baby spinach

1/2 avocado, chopped

One tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

10 olives, halved

1/4 large cucumber, chopped

1/2 to 1 whole sweet pepper, chopped

Edamame, boiled and shelled

Green beans, boiled and trimmed

Dressing of choice

Optional: Chopped hard-boiled egg, goat cheese

Separate out all ingredients into two bowls. Enjoy. Serves two.

What’d we get this week? Tomatoes (slicing and grape), cucumbers, eggplant, melon and little sweet peppers.

This week's goodies: Two types of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, melon and little sweet peppers.

This week's goodies: Two types of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, melon and little sweet peppers. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 18: Pantry potato pieces

Potatoes can't stay in storage forever.

Potatoes can't stay in storage forever. by Sarah Henning

So, I’m going to change things up a bit.

You see, last week we got a fabulous assortment of yumminess from our CSA, Rolling Prairie: Watermelon, tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers, starter onions, yellow squash and peppers.

Everything was delicious. As can be expected. But I’m not going to write this week about any of those things.

Why? Because if you’ve just been following along, you know that for weeks when I describe how we use the potatoes we picked up from Rolling Prairie, I would say that we stored them. And I’m guessing if you have a CSA, you may have done the same thing.

So, this week we pulled out those stored potatoes and made some home fries to go along with one of our very excellent CSA meals.

And they were excellent. And addictive. And totally gone in a flash.

Just-washed, straight from the pantry.

Just-washed, straight from the pantry. by Sarah Henning

Pantry Potato Pieces

Potatoes

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice potatoes into quarter-inch thick slices, leaving the skins on. Place in a glass lasagna dish, toss in olive oil to coat and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and eat immediately. Servings vary based on size of potatoes.

What’d we get this week? Summer squash, edamame, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, a cucumber and green beans.

This week's goodies: summer squash, edamame, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans.

This week's goodies: summer squash, edamame, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans. by Sarah Henning

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Cooking away the CSA, week 17: Travel eats

Lunch on the road.

Lunch on the road. by Sarah Henning

If you try to eat healthy, travel can pose certain problems.

Not only temptation, but just plain logistics. It turns into a sort of either/or situation: Either you eat what’s available (and it probably won’t be healthy) or you have to lug your own food on your plane/train/automobile.

Neither are very appetizing choices, to say the least. They make it very easy to just say, “To heck with this, I’m on vacation!” and leave good intentions abandoned on the roadway for a week or two.

Now, I totally succumb to the “I’m on vacation, I deserve a treat” school of thought, for sure. But I try to do as good as I can most of the time, because I don’t want to feel like crap my whole vacation, which I know I would if I just ate chocolate the whole time (which I’d totally do if I could get away with it).

And, believe me, chocolate made it into the equation every single day of our week in Colorado for this vacation. But because we were driving, I felt like I could have a little more control over what I ate on the way out there and the way back.

There, I brought a salad from The Merc, and ate it as rest of my family munched on Quiznos. Probably not totally polite, but no one seemed to care. I would’ve eaten it outside if it had not been foggy and rainy and cool (in the 60s).

The way back, I was able to do double duty in that I used up leftovers and have a pretty awesome rest stop lunch. While the boys chose to make honey and peanut butter sandwiches to have on the drive, I had a salad (above) of baby spinach, a Hilary’s Eat Well veggie burger (formerly the veggie burger at Local Burger), roasted butternut squash and nearly finished store-bought, honey-mustard dressing.

Sounds weird, but tasted great, while sitting at a picnic table in Arriba, Colo.

Before and after lunch, I also had a couple of handfuls of car-friendly trail mix, very much like the one I snuck into "Skyfall."

There was some real chocolate eating, too, because it was vacation, of course. Most notably, my mother bought the kiddo a book on the bear who broke into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Estes Park, Colo., last summer.

Thus, we then had to go to the store:

http://www.lawrence.com/users/photos/2013/aug/05/259526/

And buy the handy-dandy bag of goodies they sell sampling everything the bear ate:

One of everything the bear ate.

One of everything the bear ate. by Sarah Henning

As you can see, it was delicious.

He thinks the bear had great taste.

He thinks the bear had great taste. by Sarah Henning

So, what’d we get in this week’s Rolling Prairie CSA bag? Watermelon, tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers, starter onions, yellow squash and peppers.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 16: Double squash delight

Double the squash fun.

Double the squash fun. by Sarah Henning

Before we get started on how to do nutritional double duty with not one but two kinds of squash in the same meal, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who contacted me with such positive things to say about my writeup on veggies and kids last week.

I heard from several of you who are also doing the very best you can, knowing that perfection just isn’t going to happen when we’re talking kids and food. If you want me to post more frequently on this topic, I most definitely will. Because children’s nutrition is obviously important, especially if it’s doable children’s nutrition.

So, thank you.

Now, to the matter at hand: how to gobble up all that CSA goodness, you’re surely getting/have gotten this week.

We’re more than halfway through the season, and it’s pretty clear from the variety coming in at local CSAs (we use Rolling Prairie) and at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market. As an example of variety, last week we received: blackberries, yellow squash, onions, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, corn and cucumbers.

The cherry tomatoes and cucumbers were gone pretty darn fast, claimed by the kiddo, who helped “chop” the cucumbers with his kiddie butter knife.

Don't worry, he's using a child's knife.

Don't worry, he's using a child's knife. by Sarah Henning

The blackberries disappeared into a chocolate-spinach-banana-hemp seed smoothie.

Blackberry and chocolate smoothie = delicious.

Blackberry and chocolate smoothie = delicious. by Sarah Henning

The chard was juiced, the corn was boiled and the potatoes were stored.

But the squash and onions, they went into a delightful new dish I’m calling Double Squash Skillet.

This warm dish combines a baked spaghetti squash with an Italian-inspired saute featuring mushrooms, onions, garlic, marinara and a chopped yellow squash, for doubly squashy goodness.

Note: You will need to cook the spaghetti squash first. We do this by splitting it in half lengthwise, taking out the seeds, rubbing the edges with olive oil and then baking it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Double Squash Skillet

1 spaghetti squash, baked, “noodles” scraped out with a fork

1 yellow squash, cut into half-inch pieces

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 pint button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced

1 ½ cups marinara

1 tablespoon oil for the frying pan (we used coconut oil)

Once the spaghetti squash has finished in the oven, heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan/skillet/wok.

Add garlic and onion, stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onions start to become clear. Add the yellow squash. Wait a minute, stirring. Add the mushrooms and baked spaghetti squash. Stir until they’re heated through.

At the last minute, add the marinara. Keep stirring and cook until all the veggies are soft.

Take off heat and serve immediately. Serves: 4.

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Cooking away the CSA, week 15: On raising a kid who likes vegetables

Ahhhhh, what's up doc?

Ahhhhh, what's up doc? by Sarah Henning

Every Monday when we pick up our CSA bag from Rolling Prairie, our 4-year-old son goes with us. And every Saturday when we go to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, he goes too. And when we harvest (or work) in the garden, he’s out there, bending over the rabbit fence, checking to see how our peppers are doing.

He knows so much more about food than I ever did at his age. This is not a knock on my parents at all. I think I just wasn’t interested like I am now, and as he’s turned out to be.

And let me tell you: I’m so happy he’s interested. Because we’ve had a much easier time trying to get him to eat healthy, real food, I think because he knows what it is, sees where it grows and helps us pick it or buy it or lug it home from our CSA.

We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible with where food comes from, and I think finally it’s starting to rub off.

You see, I wouldn’t say our kid eats any better than yours.

It would be completely wrong of me to suggest he’s a little angel who thumbs his nose as ice cream while chowing down on kale. Truth is, he absolutely loves ice cream and only eats kale if I hide it in his morning smoothie (though, usually, he can tell it’s there and will tell me it’s “gross”).

Yes, he does eat (and enjoy) ice cream.

Yes, he does eat (and enjoy) ice cream. by Sarah Henning

At dinner, he’d prefer to have some form of cheese and carbs (quesadilla, grilled cheese, etc.) as his main meal with a side of fruit and avocado, followed by chocolate/ice cream/or nothing if he didn’t clear his plate. The vegetables he’ll eat out of hand — and usually with some sort of bribery involved — are pretty much limited to baby carrots, cooked peas and corn on the cob, if I’m being really honest.

But, every so often, we have a breakthrough.

You see that carrot pic? He hadn’t eaten a carrot like Bugs Bunny in a long time, but decided this week to go for it. He even peeled it himself.

Same goes for cucumbers and sweet peppers — he used to turn his nose up at them, but now he’ll eat them sliced and he’s happy to do so, no “if you eat five bites, you can have a chocolate chip,” type bribes. And most of that is thanks to our repeated growing and buying of those two vegetables locally. We must have offered slices of each to him a thousand different ways, and this summer, it’s finally taken.

I say all this because I posted that carrot pic on Facebook and one of my friends commented that it was really great that we were raising our kid to eat healthy foods. I think it’s sweet that someone thought we’re doing a good job, but here’s the thing: While we are raising him to eat healthy foods, he’s still a kid. And kids are notoriously willful about what they’ll eat.

He doesn’t eat junk — I firmly believe in avoiding having it around to begin with — but is he going to eat carrot a la Bugs every night? Probably not, even though that would be lovely if he did.

We do our best and that’s all we can do. Perfection would be, well, perfect. But balance is much, much more attainable. Even if it kills me to admit it.

So, this is my message to Lawrence parents, who probably fret, like I do, if our kids are eating healthy enough: Just try. And don’t beat yourself up if your kid doesn’t take to kale right away.

It’s easy when you read a blog about someone else’s life to think they’re perfect or at least pretending to be. I try to make this blog as accessible as I can, and I just thought I’d point out that though fruits and vegetables are king and queen of our household doesn’t mean we’re glaring at you for doling out ice cream sandwiches instead of watermelon on a hot day. Nobody should do that to anybody.

I’d much rather spend my energy on teaching my son about good food than yelling at him for enjoying something that isn’t idea.

Instead of expecting him to be perfect and non-ice-cream-sandwich-loving, we spend our time immersing him in the act of growing, picking and purchasing food than do trying to force-feed him kohlrabi. We also spend time making dinner with him and letting him help by stirring, peeling and just generally being a part of the whole eating process.

And that is working for us at this point.

So, of our CSA goodies from last week — kale, potatoes, green beans, onions, squash, broccoli, corn on the cob — how much did our son eat? Only the corn. Yep, and that’s OK. Even if it’s not perfect.

Our goodies this week? Cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes.

This week's goodness: cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes.

This week's goodness: cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes. by Sarah Henning

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