Weekly Meal Plan 11/24-11/30

Hey Friends! The idea of doing a meal plan this week is particularly daunting for some reason. As I think I’ve mentioned before, the holidays tend to put me in something of a state, and the closer the holiday, the harder it becomes to focus on anything but “the meal” or “the moment.” Perhaps then this is the most important kind of post to write. Perhaps taking a few minutes to focus on the other meals that we’ll be eating this week will help me gain perspective, will help me slow down a little and remember that every holiday is also a day amongst many others. That day will not be perfect no matter what I do, and being sure I am well nourished and balanced because of my efforts leading up to and away from that celebration can only help me relax and enjoy myself. WIth that in mind I will attempt to do slightly more than the slapdash job of a menu plan that I promised myself I would complete today. ;-) Or maybe it will be slapdash, but it will be done and that will be good enough. Even a quick plan full of healthy homemade food is better than nothing, right?

 photo 2268252a-418c-4369-a086-5da064f1dedf.jpgMonday: Varia Bowls with rice noodles (this didn’t happen last week due to a sick kid preventing rice noodle procurement), tofu and veggies (it’s 70 degrees here today?!)

Tuesday: Burritos with the last of the peppers from the garden

Wednesday: Mulligatawny Soup, Homemade Bread, Green Salad

Thursday: Thanksgiving (see this post for ideas about what we’ll be eating)

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Dinner with Friends – Yay!!

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Spinach, Green Salad

You’ve likely noticed the repetitive homemade pizza and pasta phenomenon. These are two meals that my kids love (no shocker there) and that the big people in the house thoroughly enjoy as well. Because we stretch our kids so regularly with new and unusual foods, we greatly enjoy these regularly scheduled opportunities to enjoy a healthy homemade version of something they genuinely love. They eat. They don’t grouse. We eat. We don’t’ grouse. ;-) Grouse-free evenings are an important part of any family dining strategy. Here’s hoping that your holiday is low stress, delicious, and full of good times with good company.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops

I have many fond memories of peanut butter cookies. When I was young, a neighbor introduced me to Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. I don’t know if you remember them, or if they still make them. Even if they’ve faded from our collective retail opportunities, I will always remember them because when he asked his mother for one, it was always by full name, the whole shebang, from “Nutter” to “Cookie” with a “please” tacked on at the end. He was a polite and specific kid. These were peanut butter cookies for my young friend.

While I enjoyed those cookies (any food acquired from someone else’s Mom ranked high for me as it does with most little people), I admit that I greatly preferred my mother’s homemade peanut butter cookies. I’ve no idea what recipe she used or if she had any special tricks, but with four kids I’m guessing she used one from a well used copy of Betty Crocker or something and simply followed the instructions and finished them with the required fork cross on the top to press them a little flatter. That is a peanut butter cookie to me.

I later I had a friend who’s Mom was on the verge of opening a cake business. She was doing a lot of practicing and a lot of baking all around, and she introduced me to another popular peanut butter cookie. The chocolate drop. These are the round jobbies with a chocolate kiss in the middle pressed down to flatten the dough a bit and add that chocolate peanut butter magic. I can still be convinced that anything with chocolate is worth a try, so I happily helped taste test lots of these, which were peanut butter cookies for my friend.

In considering what sort of treat to make for lunches recently, I remembered a happy Halloween discovery. Ms. Picky Pants now likes Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, at least she does right now. ;-) While I’m not particularly enthusiastic about these particular candies as they seem to have acquired a waxy/filminess that I don’t remember noticing in my own Trick or Treating days, I was happy to hear of her appreciation for the peanut butter/chocolate combo as this opens up many doors in the lunchbox treat department. And so I embarked on devising a peanut butter cookie for my little people. As usual, it became something of a exercise in revision mashed up with memory and a lot of tasting. I’ve discovered that omitting raw eggs from cookie dough has the slightly negative side effect of removing the only real barrier to eating the dough raw until you feel sick… but I digress. Without further wandering into my own raw cookie dough mishaps, I give you..

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops  – inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ “Big Gigantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies” in Vegan with a Vengeance. – makes approx 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 c white wheat flour
  • 2 c rolled oats
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 c coconut oil
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 1 c solid sweet (I used turbinado, you could mix white and brown)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 coconut milk (or whatever you like)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • approx. 36 large sized dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil baking sheets, or cheat and use parchment like I did.

This is pretty standard cookie procedure stuff. Mix the dry ingredients (not including the sugar). Mix the wet ingredients and the sugar in a large bowl. Add the dry to the wet and stir to combine. The dough will be on the stiff side. Make balls with about 2 T of dough. Place on baking sheet. Flatten with a fork by pressing in one direction and then the opposite. Think about someone who made you cookies when you were little. Add a dark chocolate chip to the top of each, pressing it in a bit so it will stick.

  

Bake in oven for 9-11 minutes or until just starting to brown. Let cool on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes so they will firm up. Continue cooling the ones you don’t consume on a wire rack. Delish!

Weekly Meal Plan 11/17-11/23

How we react to things is a really good indicator of our core, our essence, those fundamental and if not unchangeable, at least strongly resilient parts of ourselves. This last week we discovered (while having someone complete one repair on our heat system) that a significant section of our venting was, in fact, not even connected to the thing that makes the heat. We have lived here for over seven years.

My husband, in a display of his generously sunny disposition, responded with “Yay! It’s finally going to be warmer in a big section of the house.” And I know he’s right, and I’m happy about it too. But right there along with my happy, is a calculator of all the wasted heating dollars, and frustration with all the HVAC people who’ve been here before now… because REALLY?! So, it’s fixed, and as tonight it seems that winter has arrived, I’m happy about it too. Really I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want warm comfort food, because just like my dollar wasting calculator, my desire for comfort food is core, basic me-ness. I’m pretty sure both my love of comforting belly warming foods and frugal dishes show up in this menu. Hopefully all my sunny people will eat them and still stay their wonderful sunny selves. Hope your week reveals something essential about you that you just love.

 photo b4b5fa15-af38-4aaf-93a3-efb49641c748.jpgMonday: 30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili, Quinoa, Cornbread, Green Salad

Tuesday: Lentil/Bulgur Burgers, Roast Potatoes, Broccoli, Green Salad

Wednesday:  Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, Mixed Grain Bread, Green Salad

Thursday: Asian Varia Bowl with Rice Noodles, Veggies

Friday: Homemade Pizza, Cut Veggies

Saturday: Baked Butternut Squash Risotto, Green Beans, Green Salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Spinach and Pesto

Adult Lunches: leftover chili, leftover Cold Kickin’ Soup

Lunchbox Treat: Peanut Butter Crisp Cookies (yes, I will share this one…)

  

I had completely forgotten about those cookies. Yeah, I gotta go. Hope your week is as easy or as hard as you need it to be and that all of your vents are properly connected. Eat well, be well friends!

Healthier Holiday Foods: Thanksgiving Edition

It’s coming. The great big Thanksgikuhmas. We will be doing a lot of celebrating, and I assume many of you will be as well. I want to make it clear, despite our occasionally ascetic sounding screes about food in the modern world, Big Sis and I both do really love to eat. And most of all we really love to eat with family and friends. Over the years we’ve found that it is particularly helpful to have an arsenal of healthier foods to either create a super buffet out of or to bring as a contribution to someone else’s meal to help decrease the likelihood that we will not only overeat but we will not have any nutrition whilst we do that.

If you are leaning in a similar direction, or are just trying to stay out of elastic waisted pants this winter, you may find these suggestions helpful as part of your holiday scene. I’ve leaned in the Thanksgiving/Harvest/Fall flavor profile direction for this post since Thanksgiving is coming up so very quickly. I’ll try to offer some similar assistance during the later cold and dark time of December. For now, let’s all go make some hand turkeys and be grateful for friends and family, for our health, and for bountiful and delicious choices!

Starters

 

1. Mixed Grain Bread

2. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

3. Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Sides or Veggie Banquet Fare

4. Naturally Sweet Sweet Potatoes

5. Creamy Non-Dairy Mashed Potatoes

6. Bulgur PIlaf with Pine Nuts and Cranberries

7. Creamed Kale 

8. Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

9. Waldorf Saute

Desserts

10. Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

11. Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie 

12. Cranberry Apple Pecan Crunch

Almonds Recalled

FSNBRaw almonds sold through Whole Foods markets recalled because of a higher than average level of the natural chemical hydrogen cyanide. Not clear to me from these reports how that would happen, but something worth checking into for sure.  Check details on this one here and be sure to share with nut eating friends. Eat well, be well friends.

Sesame Whole Wheat Pancakes with Honeyed Oranges

It’s been a long time since I made pancakes around here. I noticed that having added chocolate chips a few times, the expectation from the little people became increasingly chocolate chip focused. They also, as a result of growth spurts, were a lot hungrier in the morning, and the need for speed was a driving factor in my pancake break. The lovely thing about taking a pancake break is that when you start to make them, everyone is happy to wait, very flexible about the kind of pancakes you make, and oh so excited to eat breakfast. And they didn’t even know how good they were going to be…

These pancakes were fantastic. Light and flavorful. Warm and comforting. The perfect platform for some chopped oranges with a little honey.

Sesame Whole Wheat Pancakes

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  • 3 c white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c chickpea flour
  • 1/3 c corn meal or polenta (oats would probably work too)
  • 1/3 c sesame seeds
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • fresh grated nutmeg to taste (I use a microplane)
  • 6 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 3 1/2 c coconut milk (or whatever kind you like)

Honeyed Oranges

I believe you can do this with any oranges. Personally I used clementines because we love them and I had them to hand. These “measurements” are really unimportant – do it how you like.

  • 4 small oranges
  • a 1/2-1 t honey

Procedure

If you have not pre-heated your pans via some overnight magic, I strongly suggest you do so first thing. Turn the oven to 300 (or so) and place oven safe pans (I use well seasoned cast iron) in the oven to warm). Why? See my full pancake method explanation here, or just take my word for it. Mix the dry ingredients. Gently heat coconut oil to liquify it. Mix the applesauce, banana and milk. Add these to the dry ingredients and stir until mostly combined. Add liquid coconut oil and stir to combine. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.

While the batter is resting, chop oranges into bite sized pieces. If you wanted to be really fancy, you could supreme them, but I rarely feel like being that fancy, especially in the morning. Drizzle with a small amount of honey and let sit. I used 4 clementines (very small) and less than a teaspoon of honey, just for reference. You should use what you like and prepare to taste.

After batter has rested, drop it by 1/4 c measure into warm lightly oiled pans. Wait until bubbles form and gently turn. Marvel at the beautiful color. Serve to hungry hordes with the oranges and watch breakfast disappear. Absolutely delish!

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Weekly Meal Plan 11/10-11/16

And then we got sick… I joked about last week’s menu looking like one written by someone who had a cold… I was apparently seeing the future. Our family has been passing around the most delightful illness. By midweek I was fevered and dizzy. The plan did not necessarily go as planned. The reality of that happening from time to time reminds me that it is always a good idea to have some fall back positions, especially the kind that only require heat in order to make food happen. Freezer food is your friend, especially if you have small germ factories in your house that make a daily deposit and withdrawal at the local public incubation system. We relied heavily on earlier efforts last week and as a result ate reasonably well in spite of my being completely out of commission. Mr. Little Sis is quite culinarily capable, but is strapped for time, so our freezer stock served us well. I will, over the next few weeks, make a concerted effort to include at least one very freezable meal (we have lots of ‘em here) in the plan and double the amount so I can restock for the next round. In the meantime, while I am still coughing, I am at least able to stand up and move around, so life goes on, and that means food. On with the weekly plan.

 photo 554b547c-c3c4-4c40-a2a6-51f6ad6ad77b.jpgMonday: Potato Pancakes (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) with Cashew Cream, Applesauce, Green Salad

Tuesday: Pakistani Lentil Kima, Spice Marinated Cherry Tomatoes(from Vegetarian Times), salad

Wednesday: Lentil. Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Soup, Wheat Bread, Salad

Thursday: Zucheezy Noodles (didn’t happen last week and I really need to throw Ms. Picky Pants a bone here), sautéed green beans, cut veggies

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Roasted Vegetable Chili, cornbread, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach, green salad

Grown-Up Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup

Aspirational Dessert (If I am up to it, IOW): Mango Coconut Bread Pudding… yeah, it sounds great, but don’t count on it. I’m not.

That’s my plan for the week. I’d say I’m excited, but it would be more honest to say I’m just hoping this week I can actually do it. ;-) Hope you are virus free and all your meals are healthful and delicious!

Sweet Potato & Lime on Your Chip?

Basically, I’m beginning to think that sweet potato is like chocolate….. there seems to be very little that does not benefit from the addition of sweet potato.  I try to always keep some on hand because in and of themselves they are a great addition to any meal as a simple side (or with the addition of some walnuts a breakfast!).  Pop a sweet potato (or 4) in the oven if you have time, or the microwave if you don’t and 4 – 40 minutes later you have a delicious and healthy side that is even better with a little cinnamon sprinkled, a little coconut oil drizzled, a little salt scattered, yum.

One appreciates such simplicity when life is complicated by school and work and, well, life.  As a result of all the complications, lately I have not been very adventurous in creating whole new entrees.  (Or in posting – thank you Little Sis for picking up the slack!).  I hate receiving an unenthusiastic, “Oh,” or “Again?” when I answer queries about dinner.  But I have found that a great way to inspire new combos when I am uninspired is to try a new sauce or dip.  Pour or spread something flavorful on old standbys and suddenly it’s like a whole new thing.  I think dips are particularly nice because they also fill the bill with veggies or Ezekiel bread as a snack, or as a way to make a sandwich very special. Combine this idea with my love of sweet potatoes and I could not pass up this recipe that I found in an old issue of Vegetarian Times (I’m a little behind in my non-school reading!!). This sweet potato dip is rounded out in terms of flavor, consistency and protein content with some white miso and in terms of flavor with lime and ginger.  Simple, delicious and it was scooped onto tortilla chips and added to a tortilla with cheese and salsa in it’s debut in our household.

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Miso-Lime Sweet Potato Dip (from Vegetarian Times)

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. white miso paste (soy bean paste available in the refrigerated section of some groceries – also great for making miso soup!)
2 Tbsp. lime juice (I think next time I’ll cut down on the lime juice just a tad – maybe 1.5 Tbsp)
1 tsp freshly grated ginger (Freeze your fresh ginger root and it becomes very easy to grate and lasts a good long time!)
1/2 tsp lime zest for garnish (optional)
salt and pepper (optional)

Cook the sweet potatoes until very soft.
Cool until you can touch them then cut into chunks with skin on and toss in the food processor
Add the other ingredients and process until smooth.  You may have to add a little water – I added about 2 teaspoons – to desired consistency.

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Then dip, spread, slather and put it anywhere that might change the “Oh,” or “Again?” into, “That sounds interesting,” and eventually, “I like this!”  My son ate his in a tortilla with cheese and salsa.

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I was thinking the addition of some black beans (just open a can on a busy night!) would have been perfect.
Mr Bigg Sis and I complemented the last of the leftover chicken soup with the dip and chips.  Really made those last 2 bowls of chicken soup more interesting!

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If you would like to try some dips or sauces to easily add interest to the same old same old…. Here are some more to try! Happy Dipping and Spreading my friends!

Nutty Lunch Dip

Lemon-y Hummus Sauce

Cheddar Cheesy Cashew Ball / Spread

Easy Artichoke Dip

Orange Hummus

Bean & Green Spread

Prune Cardamom Sauce

Healthy Bechamel Sauce

Berry / Thyme Sauce

Happier Caramel-la Dipping Sauce

 

 

 

5 ways to beat a Halloween candy binge

Little Sis:

Still feeling the effects of Halloween? We were unfortunately NOT inundated with visitors. My homemade kettle corn went like hotcakes. The pretzels too. In a moment of panic the day before the big event, I bought a bag of candy in case we ran out of everything. Guess what’s still here? Tanya Zuckerbrot has some sound advice for moving past a sweets binge of any kind.

Originally posted on US Food Safety:

By Tanya Zuckerbrot

If you have kids or threw a Halloween party, there’s no doubt trick-or-cheating has sent your diet completely off the rails. Here are some simple ways to minimize the damage and get back on a healthy track:

Get back to normal eating habits

If you overdid it on sugary treats you may be feeling tired, jittery and have cravings for more sugar.  Nip that in the bud by eating clean, nutritious meals and snacks. Fill up on high-fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains that act like a detox, soaking up waste and ushering it out of your system. To take the guesswork out of what you are going to eat, plan your healthier meals and treats for the coming week.

Fill up on fiber and protein

Don’t skip meals thinking it will offset your candy splurge. Instead, have small meals that combine foods rich in protein and fiber, such…

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Kicking the Asian Rice Up a Notch

 photo IMG_0940.jpgWe eat a lot of Asian styled meals around here. Our varia-bowl approach to eating works particularly well with Asian flavor profiles, and well Mr. Little Sis and I just love Asian food. Ms. Picky Pants, however is not a fan of rice. We’ve used quinoa, noodles, amaranth, polenta. We’ve done all that. But let’s face it, rice is cheaper than ALL that. So, while reading an issue of Vegetarian Times, I stumbled onto a new rice preparation that I thought was worth giving a go. Combined with a new sauce, we had a hit on our hands, at least for a couple of rounds. She is a changeable little thing.

The beauty of this rice prep is that you can use leftover rice and it’s largely hands off. You simply put it in a pan in the oven, wait, and bam, you have rice that is slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the perfect foundation for any rice friendly food you can think of. Continue reading