Weekly Menu 12/15-12/21

It has been an unpleasantly eventful week here at Lake PukeyVirus. The dreaded stomach bug that previously gripped the elementary school health room has found its way into our house and laid waste to us one by one. While all this healthful eating has made me feel better on a daily basis and has made me less likely to get all the allergy, cold, sinus infection stuff I was plagued with as a child, it doesn’t seem to make us immune to evil stomach bugs. So here we are, a raggedy band of worn out people without much appetite and without much tolerance for exotic and powerfully flavored dishes. I’m going to make a meal plan that favors gentle anti-inflammatory foods in delicious combinations. It’s a walk on the mild side…

Monday: Miso Soup with Rice Noodles

Tuesday: Kichadi, cut veggies

Wednesday: Naturally Sweet Sweet Potatoes, black beans and tortillas for those who are well enough, salad

Thursday: Lentil, Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Soup, homemade bread, salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza (I’m hoping we’re up to this by then), cut veggies

Saturday: Carrot Ginger Soup, salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach and red sauce (“homemades and gravy”), salad

Lunchbox Treat: low sugar graham crackers, or for the more recovered Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops

Adult Lunches: I’ll be making nearly all these dishes in large quantities so we’ll have lunches and/or some to freeze.

I hope your week is full of good feeling, good flavors, and good friends.

Even Better Butternut Squash Soup

It can be dangerous to try and make something wonderful even better…. I guess.  Some might warn, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?”  Well, in this case, pushing the limits of good leaves us with 2 yummy alternatives…. and 1 caveat.  (I’ll get to that later)

Little Sis and I offered you some easy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup a couple of years ago.   I wanted to take it to a women’s group for which I offered to bring soup and decided that I wanted something with some protein as we were pairing it with bread and salad.  I also thought that some roasted garlic would enhance the experience as well, so…. cashews and garlic are part of the adapted version.  It got rave reviews.

Now for the caveat…. Apparently roasted onion, squash and cashews can be a potent digestive combo for some who are inclined towards affecting greenhouse gas levels in a rather socially unacceptable way.  Will I eat this soup again?  Indeed.  I will do a little math, figure out where I have to be in about 20 hours after eating it and adjust accordingly.  Will I ever let my husband eat it again?  Indeed NOT! :-)  Luckily he has many fine qualities, so if he eats some of the leftover soup I will forgive him.  So let your digestion guide you, but I promise you won’t regret trying this soup!

The recipe is for 2 butternut squash and of course size will vary so add stock a cup at a time and see what you think of flavor / consistency.

1 cup raw cashews soaked in about 2 cups water for at least 6 hours
2 butternut squash – cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out.
2 med – large onions, peeled and cut in half
4 – 6 cloves of garlic (I used 4 enormous cloves) left in their papery shell
2 – 4 cups of vegetable stock
2 cored but unpeeled apples (I used Gala)
1/2 – 1 tsp sage
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Roast the squash, onion and garlic at 400 degrees for 40 – 60 minutes or until tender.

after roastingRemove the garlic at about 20 minutes and peel when cool.
Once everything is tender, remove from oven and let cool so you can handle a bit to scoop the squash out of the skin.
I heated the apples in the microwave to soften them, but you could probably roast them for the last 10 minutes or so as well!
Drain the cashews.
Place batches of all the ingredients in a power blender or into a pot with a stick blender.  Make sure you put some liquid in each batch of the blender to help it go.Pour back into a pot and stir.  Warm if necessary and serve.

Your taste buds will love you for this one! – caveat and all.  Caveat is a nice polite word for it, don’t you think?

in the bowl

Mushroom Gumbo (GF/V)

Don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but we’ve settled into pretty sustained soup and stew weather around here, which is just fine by me. I could eat soup every day and be totally happy about that. Unfortunately not all the members of my little tribe feel as universally friendly to soup as I do, so I am pretty constantly trying new versions to try to draw the resisters in. This week I thought I’d rely on the appeal of tomato based recipes and try something new. And so we did.

I found a gumbo recipe in my More With Less cookbook, which tends to offer a wide variety of flavor profiles in fairly simple recipes that don’t tend to rely on too many exotic ingredients. Sounds like a good way to go, eh? The original recipe was for chicken gumbo, but I decided to use sautéed mushrooms instead. We often replace meat with lentils or a lentil bulgur mixture, but having had a fair amount of those recently, I thought we’d put the umami of the mushrooms to work for us. The result? An approval rating of 75%, which is an A- for the cook in our house. Yes, we grade on a sliding scale based on reality. This gumbo, while originally called “spicy” was not particularly so, so if that’s your thing you should crank it up a bit in the chili department. On to the gumbo…

Mushroom Gumbo

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  • oil for the pot
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 T flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 large can or box chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c frozen okra
  • 2/3 c tomato paste
  • 3 c veggie broth or stock
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 1/2 T soy sauce or Bragg’s
  • 1/8 t ground cloves
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • pinch dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • about 12 oz mushrooms, chopped into rough quarters (I used cremini)
  • 1 T gumbo file (no idea why I had this in the pantry, the original recipe says it is optional)
  • chopped parsley for garnish
  • cooked rice for serving

Warm the oil in a large pot. Add onions and sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add green pepper and sauté for an additional minute or so. Add 2 T flour and stir in, cook for another minute or so, stirring to prevent the flour mixture from burning. When peppers have begun to grown tender add the rest of the ingredients and bring to gentle boil. Drop heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes.

While stew is simmering, sauté mushrooms in a pan of warm oil with a dash of salt. Let them sit to brown a little – which means don’t turn them too much. When the mushrooms are browned, add to gumbo pot to simmer together. When gumbo is warmed through and flavors have developed, serve over rice with a sprinkle of parsley. Delish!

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Weekly Menu 12/8-12/14

You thought perhaps it had all caught up with me, all this silly menu planning promising, didn’t you? You thought I’d finally hit the wall. Well… I guess I did, but then I decided to scale it. Aren’t I tough? In truth I didn’t want to plan a menu today any more than I wanted to do laundry or get out of bed; however, I was compelled both by my promise to you and by the fact that I knew if I didn’t do the menu, I likely would continue only to feel worse about doing any of those things. A case of the blahs is not defeated by last minute ill-considered meal consumption, at least it’s not for me. So, with all of that undersell out of the way, I give you the week in food:

 photo f618fbe6-237f-44d3-aa49-4f134f91e5c6.jpgMonday: leftovers – what else can one do when the fridge is full of lots of single servings, the cook is tired, and there’s holiday decorating to be done?!

Tuesday: Shweet Potato Stew, brown bread, pickled carrots, and green salad

Wednesday: Green Bean and Potato Coconut Curry, cucumber slices, green salad

Thursday: Nutshroom Burgers, Sauteed Green Beans, Freezer Pickles, burger fixin’s

Friday: Homemade Pizza

Saturday: Dinner with Friends – Yay!

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach and a green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Sweet Potato Cookies (I will make lots and freeze some for the holiday crowd)

Adult Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup (Gotta keep that immunity up for the holidays!)

 

Hope your week goes swimmingly, or at least treadingly!

Lemon-Oregano Chicken & Potatoes

I do love roast chicken.  You get a nice dinner, another meal or two and a big pot of soup!  That’s a good deal, especially since I buy organic free-range chickens.  They are not cheap but they meet my considerations about eating animals / animal fat and the unclean way that most chickens are raised and processed.  We have many nights without meat, but this is a great way to start a few meals, and/or have leftovers for sandwiches or to top salads.  Here at the pantry we know that there are a variety of ways to eat healthfully but all of them include real food made from real ingredients with as much vegetables as possible.   Little Sis’ family is pretty much vegan.  Mine eats meat once or twice a week with roast chicken followed by soup being a staple approach.

Recently I have been mixing lemon zest, oregano, salt and pressed garlic and sliding it between the skin and the meat of one of our lovely organic free range birds.  I add little red potatoes to the pot and my son is suddenly asking for seconds when he was previously NOT a fan of chicken. This approach is definitely worth the 5- 10 minutes it takes to make the rub and put it on the chicken.  The house smells fabulous….. right now in fact!

The trick is to find the break between the skin and the meat at the opening of the chicken and then work your fingers into the break, first without and then with the rub.

20141115_155539-00120141115_155558-001Just take a little clump of mixture and slide it in.  Then mash it a little from above to spread it out.

The mash I used this time was
zest of 3 lemons
1 -2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Oregano
4 – 6 cloves of pressed garlic.

Mix and then spread under the skin, on top and if any left over place in body cavity.  You can also save some to put on top of potatoes that you add to the pot to cook together.  If you cook the potatoes with the chicken it is a good idea to use a syringe baster to spread some of the juices onto the potatoes.

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I roast my chickens upside down as it keeps more juice in the breast.  If you like a browned skin then flip the bird when you still have 15 or 20 minutes to go and leave the top off if using a roaster.  Please follow guidelines for cooking chicken appropriately to avoid food poisoning and make sure you wash hands well after handling raw chicken.  I like to cook chicken at a higher temp for a shorter time as I think that also makes it more juicy.  I cook at 400 and check it with a meat thermometer after an hour for a small chicken (organic chickens then to be smaller).

20141203_175424-001We ate this chicken with beet greens sauteed in some of the cooked chicken juices and of course the potatoes.  Very tasty … and some leftover meat for another dinner, plus soup in a couple of days!  Bonanza :-)

If you keep this carcass for soup then you get an added bonus of a little lemon-y, garlic-y flavor to your soup.  This is really nice for a minestrone, or just plain old chicken noodle or chicken with rice.

For further instructions on making soup from a carcass see my post on the subject.

This makes a lovely dish to serve guests as well – although you might need 2 so as to be sure and have some leftovers ;-)

Enjoy savoring many meals with family and friends this holiday season.  Little Sis and I have been hard at work on compiling our Baby Steps and a bunch of recipes into an e-book that we hope to release soon….. just in time to help you out with your New Years Resolutions ;-)  We’ll keep you posted!

Weekly Meal Plan 12/1-12/7

Holy crow where is the time going?! I can’t believe I just typed those dates in… I sincerely hope you all have had a lovely weekend, and if you’re in the U.S. a superb Thanksgiving. We enjoyed our feast, spent some good time together, watched the kids play in the first snowfall and visited with old friends. We’re now working our way through what’s left of the leftovers and trying to get our heads around the fact that Christmas is around the proverbial corner. But even with leftovers and post/pre holiday chaos, there’s cooking to do and meals to eat, so while I’m a little late in the day, I’m keeping my promise to myself and those of you who heard me say it. ;-) A week of healthful yum for all of us.

Monday: Leftover Mashed Potato Soup, homemade wheat bread, green beans and green salad

Tuesday: Spicy Mushroom Gumbo (using a recipe in More with Less as guidance), brown rice, cut cucumbers, roasted root veggies

Wednesday:  Rockin’ GF Falafel, roasted potatoes, green salad with tahini dressing

Thursday: Leftoverlicious Lentil Casserole, steamed broccoli, cut cucumbers

Friday: Homemade Pizza, carrot fries, salad

Saturday: Middle Eastern Chickpeas with Spinach (Moosewood Low Fat Favorites), Power Tabbouleh, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach, red peppers and green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Joy Brownies

Parent Lunches: leftovers of all of the above as I will be making double batches :-)

Hope you all have a super duper week.

Pumpkin Biscuits (GF/DF)

What to bring or serve for the bread portion of Thanksgiving that is gluten free? Those that eat gluten will probably not enjoy the GF standard version, so usually I supply corn bread or corn muffins to round out the meal for GF and non-GF eaters alike.  I have been hankering for my GF Banana Biscuits and was tempted to introduce banana to the Thanksgiving menu despite all evidence that residents of New England have never found a banana anywhere but in a modern grocery store.  So, in true Little Sis fashion, I decided to just change up a good recipe to create a more appropriately seasonal biscuit.  Which of course leads us to pumpkin…. No, not the 4 that are still sitting on my porch in lieu of the Christmas decorations that are already springing up all around us…. I opted for the can of pumpkin in the pantry.

Turns out pumpkin puree makes an easy substitute for banana, add a little sugar (if you like) and voila.  The three of us really enjoyed these biscuits (which I had the sense to test prior to Thanksgiving Day) with our ‘Not Just Kramer’s Mulligatawny’ – Vegan Curry Soup.

As an aside, I was inspired to make this delicious soup because I have been horning in on Little Sis’ weekly meal plans.  She has kindly published her weekly meal plan for the last 3 weeks (here’s week 1 and week 2) and oooh is it nice to just check it out and make what she picked ;-)  She is so smart that Little Sis of mine.  I want to be just like her when I grow up.

At any rate – back to the biscuits as I’m sure you have plenty to do today!

Pumpkin Biscuits (GF/DF)

1 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 – 1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond)
3 Tbsp hard coconut oil (Cool it down a bit first if it is not firm)

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix the dry ingredients and zest together.
In a separate bowl (or large glass measuring cup), mix the pumpkin and milk.
Cut the coconut oil into pieces and mix in with a pastry cutter or a large fork if you don’t have a pastry cutter.
Add the mixed pumpkin and milk and stir to combine but don’t over-mix or mash.
Now I just pinched off big pieces and patted them slightly into biscuit shape and laid on an ungreased baking sheet.  If you want more uniform biscuits I guess you could roll them out and cut them.
Place on a cookie sheet
Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes or until browning just a touch on top
Eat warm.

20141125_174802-001  I doubled the recipe because we LOVE leftovers and they stacked up neatly in a tall container:

20141125_201439-001Have a wonderful and very Happy Thanksgiving!

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!