Don’t Say Diet

OR…

A Real Change for the New Year.

So here we go.  The New Year approaches and the diet chatter is increasing.  Everybody’s choosing plans, making resolutions and getting ready to start measuring their bits and counting their stuff.  If you are one of these folks, I’m going to ask you to reconsider.  I’m going to ask you to do something completely radical. I’m going to ask you NOT to go on a diet.

When we decide to go on a diet, we are committing to a temporary state of restriction, usually in an attempt to achieve some sort of numerical change – a smaller waistline, a lower reading on the scale, a smaller clothing size.  When we commit to a temporary state of restriction, we are admitting to the foregone conclusion that the results of that restriction – the number drop – will also be a temporary phenomenon.

You cannot return to the way you normally eat and maintain those lower numbers.  It doesn’t work.  If you’ve made this particular resolution in the past, you already know this is true.  Simply restricting what you eat also doesn’t guarantee that the food that you DO eat will actually nourish you.

BSNewYearWhen we decide to change the way that we eat, we are committing to a higher level of consciousness about what we eat in an attempt to eat food that is more healthful, that provides our bodies with more of what they require; a body that is getting what it needs is far less likely to torment us with the cravings that often drive us to eat unhealthy foods.

When we decide to change the way we eat, we are committing to caring for our bodies and our health, and are therefore also committing to caring for those around us who love us and cherish us.  When we decide to change the way that we eat, we open ourselves to the joy of living healthfully and the adventure of eating new and abundant real foods.  And so I ask you, on this auspicious occasion, NOT to diet, but to change the way you eat.  Eat Food, Real Food.

Big Sis and I have spent a lot of time this year talking about Baby Steps to Better Health.  Maybe you missed it; maybe you weren’t ready; maybe you already think you eat well and weren’t interested in making a change.  But now it’s coming – that resolution moment – that moment when so many of us get a little honest about our habits and find a little motivation to make some change.  If that’s you, and you’re ready, we’d like to invite you to join us taking Baby Steps to Better Health.

We’ll do a recap of the steps we’ve already covered.  We’ll get you started.  We’ll help you figure out what to eat and show you how to make it super yum.  If you’re ready, we’ll help you take those steps that will get you eating and feeling great in a way that works for YOU, with changes that YOU choose according to YOUR timeframe.

This is YOUR plan; it’s YOUR body.  YOU should be the one to decide what to put in it, thoughtfully and consciously, using ingredients that aren’t invented in a lab.  And you will find that the food you put in that body can be both succulent and healthful, both sublime and invigorating, both yummy and nourishing.  Because real food is delish and it does your body good.  Don’t diet; Eat Food, Real Food.

CranCherry, Almond, and White Chocolate Cookies

So yeah…. meant to get this one up before the holiday, but I also meant to get approximately 8000 other things done before the holiday, so today is the day.  Besides all that, my sister asked for the recipe so since I would have to write it down anyway, I figured I would write it down here. :-)  

These cookies are sweeter than my usual offerings, so I think they’d make an excellent first step for someone who’s just starting to think about cutting back on sweets and sugar OR an excellent indulgence for those who’ve committed to a low sugar scene.  If you’re trying to cut gluten (or eliminate it altogether), these are also a good bet for you.  Frankly, they were delicious and while I am going to have to wean myself back off the sweet stuff because of this diversion, I’m going to say it was well worth it.  So whether this is an indulgence or the beginning of a change for you – enjoy!

CranCherry, Almond and White Chocolate Cookies 

  • 7 cups rolled oats, dividedIMG_8622
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c coconut oil
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 4 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 cup dried cherries and cranberries mixed (I imagine 1 full cup of either would also work)
  • 2 c white chocolate chips (real chocolate chips would also be delightful)
  • 2 c almonds, rough chopped

Use a food processor or power blender to turn 3 c of the oats into flour.  Sift the oat flour together with the baking soda and salt.  Combine the sugar, syrup, applesauce, banana, and coconut oil in a bowl and mix until as incorporated as the coconut oil will allow. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  At a lower speed (or with a slower hand), add the flour mixture a little at a time.  Mix in the remaining oats.  Add the mix-ins.  Cover the dough and refrigerate it for at least 1/2 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line or lightly oil baking sheets.  Use a spoon or scoop to drop balls of dough onto the baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with fork or finger.  Bake for about 8 minutes.  Rotate pans (and move top to bottom/bottom to top if your oven is like mine).  Bake about 8 more minutes or until bottoms are browning and some browning is on top as well – or to your cookie done-ness preference.  Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and remove to wire rack for cooling.  Eat, quickly, before the others catch on…..  I mean share with loved ones. Delish!

For other lower sugar treat options, check out our treats category on the sidebar. If you’re thinking about making some changes in the New Year, check out our Baby Steps or Sugar Busting series – we’ll be recapping some of these strategies to help all of you who want to try something new in 2013.

Amazing Apple Sauce

This is so easy, and so amazingly better than what you get in the store that I can hardly believe it.  I have always thought I should make my own apple sauce and apple butter as with apples in particular, I prefer organic and it’s HUGELY expensive.  Commercial applesauce also doesn’t taste all that great in my opinion.

It was a staple on my plate as a child and I was very adept at spreading it out enough that it looked as though I’d actually eaten a good portion of it.  Blecch.  To be honest, it made me gag.  But, homemade is another story.  So when I found an Oh She Glows recipe for apple butter in the crock pot, and too many apples after both my husband and I bought apples on the same day, I thought I’d try apple butter.  I ended up with amazing applesauce.

apple in corer
For this recipe I got to whip out the old apple corer.  Gear enhances the experience, don’t you think? ;-)

After roughing up a mixture of the apples I had on hand (just Fuji and Gala – all getting a little old).  Note the peels are still on.  I hate extra work that reduces the nutritional value of the end product.  (Great excuse, huh?)

evidence of slaughter

I filled the crock pot with a splash of apple juice at the bottom to prevent sticking.  I think water would be fine.  Angela Liddon recommends apple juice and I had some, so that’s what I did, and left them to cook for about 6 hours.  I turned my old crock pot from high to low and back several times, but it is a pre-historic crock pot.  You might have a more medium temp that will cook without burning.

mashing

Once your apples are very tender.  Smush, bash, mash, pulverize and otherwise maul your nice complacent, soft apples into something resembling chunky apple sauce.  Here is where the departure takes place.  You can thin your mixture by letting it continue to cook for awhile with the lid off, or you can just go with this stage, which is what I did.  It will depend on what kind of apples you used and how juicy they were.  At this point, also add some spices.  I added cinnamon.  No sugar, no salt, just a little cinnamon and a pinch of cloves.  Probably about 1 tsp of cinnamon.  You could add a touch of ginger or nutmeg or allspice if you like.  Just start low and add if you need more.  Again, the line between apple sauce and apple butter may be one of sweetness for you, or of consistency, but either way, you are in the drivers seat of this baby, so just make it how you like it Sister!

Once you’ve mashed and are pleased with the consistency, you can whiz it up in the blender.  (Depending on the thickness you could probably do it in a food processor as well – but I haven’t tried that yet.

applesauce in vita mix

I just love the cosmic Vita Mix shots.  Looks like a geothermal pool of bubbling calcium salts, or a galaxy spinning off into the Vita-Verse…  Or like really smooth and creamy apple sauce.

Place this delicious concoction in a mason jar and it’s worthy of the county fair!

in jar

Kudos to those of you who thought of this a long time ago.  It was an AHA, followed by DUH! moment for me to give this a whirl.  And I am so glad I did.  Just the kind of simple, yet special preparation to dress up a holiday feast or a regular meal!

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Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Last Minute Gift

The other day I was in Michael’s, and I came across these little bitty stoneware loaf pans.  In part because I thought they could come in handy, and honestly because they were so darned CUTE, I quickly picked up all of the white ones in stock, and threw in a couple of green as well.  The red that I imagine were there at some point were long gone.  This was a few days ago and I was still in the teacher gift conundrum stage, so I quickly decided I would bake a mini loaf for the teachers and deliver with a card quoting what my children think is most awesome about them (having taught it is my opinion that these cards are priceless – I still have a boxful of them).

I quickly carted my booty home and looked through the mental files for something that would feel like a treat (while still reasonably wholesome), that I’ve made before so I could have some confidence of success, and that wouldn’t take terribly long….  Lo and Behold…..  Intensely Good Banana Bread.

One of the things that’s so lovely about this banana bread in the winter is the deep rich flavor that the molasses gives it.  It doesn’t taste anything like your run of the mill banana bread and fits the bill perfectly for holiday gift giving/hostess giving/table o’ food contribution.  I thought I would share this with you as it is now December 22.  I imagine there’s somebody out there who (like me) has realized they didn’t get everybody, or that they have several gatherings to go to and only one bottle of wine to share.  Intensely Good Banana Bread makes a lovely holiday gift or contribution – in both large and absolutely adorable mini-loaves.

Doubling the original recipes yielded 7 mini loaves. Simple and delish!

This is our last official post before Christmas, but we’ll be back soon after. We hope that you all have a lovely holiday and find yourselves relaxed, refreshed, well-nourished and in great company in the days to come!

Happier Healthier Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, with all the joy, merriment, gatherings, and well, lots of other stuff that comes with it.  I imagine that there are people who remain stress free in the face of all of the everything, but I will readily confess that I am not one of them.  While I love seeing the people I care about, I am not really one for crowds, big gatherings.  It’s fun to be with everyone, in the same place, but after a few hours my little introverted soul comes a little unglued.

BSHolidayIn the past, one of my strategies for managing my little introverted soul in the face of big bruhahas, or bruHoHoHos in this case, was to slip away from the larger group for a few minutes into a quieter space and take a few really deep breaths; sounds pretty zen, right?  What I didn’t mention is that those few deep breaths are typically between ginormous scoops from whatever nibble tray I can find lying about (usually shortly before or after a huge meal that will include a variety of desserts).  THIS is not celebratory eating, folks, this is NOT food as nourishment or tradition.  THIS is food as a crutch.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but my own personal holiday food crutch has, in years past, rewarded me with fluctuations in body weight, that oogie too full (“why did DO that”) feeling, and general lethargy that extends well into late winter (or until all the cookies are gone).  While again, I can’t speak for everybody, I am secure in the notion that I am not the only one who gets a little mixed up about food during the winter holiday cavalcade and so I thought I’d share some suggestions for how to enjoy a healthier holiday season.

1) Remember That Each Meal Is A Decision – One of the things we’ve worked to focus on in our Baby Steps to Better Health series is that each time we eat, every meal, we are making a choice about what we put in our bodies.  It is our decision, every single time.  This choice can become more complicated during the holidays, particularly if you are traveling and playing guest more often than you are playing host, but the reality is that you are still in charge of what you eat.

When it comes to healthy eating, one Bad Apple Doesn’t Always Spoil the Barrel.  So you went to Aunt Carol’s and ate stuff you wouldn’t even have considered putting in your mouth yesterday.  So you had 13 cookies.  So what.  This is not a test of your character.  It’s a decision.  Come next meal time, make a different decision and you will (and probably your stomach will also) feel better.

2) Get The Good Stuff In – Be sure to give yourself opportunities to eat healthful foods.  While you may be indulging in all manner of traditional and favorite foods that aren’t necessarily great for you, this doesn’t mean you can’t make sure you eat some broccoli.  If you are staying with family or friends, offer to do some of the cooking so you can ensure that you are able to prepare and share healthful food that will make you feel well.  A body that is well-nourished will crave less of the foods that are most likely to trip you up.  Some tried and true strategies that fall into the get the good stuff in category:

  • Eat before you go – If you aren’t sure what kind of fare will be served at a gathering OR if you know what it will be an it is something you have been trying to cut back on, eat before you go.  Our first holiday party of the season was hosted by folks we’ve just started to get to know, rather than asking too many questions about food OR puttting myself in the position of being starving and not feeling great about my options, we chose to eat dinner before we left.  The food we ate at the party became a treat – bites of things that looked really great and that we didn’t want to miss.
  • Bring something you want to eat - If you feel it would be acceptable to your host, bring some food to contribute to the event.  I often grab some dip and veggies (i.e. sunflower cheeseartichoke dip, baba ghanoush, baja hummus) as that way I can be sure there will be lots of veggies and something I REALLY enjoy that is also good for me.
  • Load the plate with veggies first – If you are filling your own plate, stack the odds in your favor by helping yourself to the most healthful dishes first – load those veggies on and don’t leave as much room for the things that you can’t resist but probably should.
  • Eat ONE – If there’s a food that IS the holidays to you, eat one.  Eat some.  Have it.  Just make sure you don’t ONLY have that if it is something that isn’t particularly healthful.

3) Change Your Focus – While there’s no question that it can be delightful to prepare, serve, share and enjoy holiday foods, there are so many other aspects of these gathering that I know could benefit from my own attention.  I’ve tried to choose a few folks that I don’t see as often and really try to spend some quality time talking with them, connecting with them, finding fulfillment in other people instead of craving fulfillment in a second piece of pie.  Food is wonderful – you know I love it and I spend SO much time talking about it, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather spend my holiday sitting next to and talking to my sister in person than eating pie, really, I’m serious.

Almond Lemon Jots

As Little Sis told you in her post of some fabulous cookies that include garam masala, that intriguing Indian spice blend, we, like so many of you have a strong Christmas Cookie tradition in our family.  I particularly loved making cookie press cookies with my Mom and Little Sis and sprinkling red and green sugar on top of the various shapes.  So what’s a sugar-busting, gluten free baker to do?  Apparently lots of GF bakers are using almond flour.  Well, almond flour is a bit over the top price -wise, but why not make your own?  Especially in the interest of making a healthier iced lemon cookie!

I placed a handful of raw almonds in the Vita-Mix at a time and ground them until a few chunks were still flying.  You don’t want to go too long or you will create gooey, pre-almond butter.  Then I poured it through a colander to remove the big pieces which I threw back in with some more almonds until I had enough almond flour.  (I used whole almonds, Detoxinista suggests using blanched, slivered almonds, but again… I’m cheap!)

This lot of almond pieces got dumped into a container with sweet potato, rice, raisins and cinnamon for the next morning’s breakfast!

sifting almonds

Now I was ready to adapt Detoxinista’s frosted almond sugar cookie recipe into Almond Lemon Jots.

Ingredients
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, softened (or use butter instead)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 – 2 tsp. lemon zest (I say the more the better!)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Frosting: 2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • pinch of salt
 Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together cookie ingredients

    lemon cookie dough - zest

    I doubled the recipe, so I used a LOT of zest.

  3. Drop by Tablespoon-ful onto a baking sheet, lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes at 350F, or until the edges turn golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting, cream together the coconut oil, honey, lemon zest and salt, until well combined. If the coconut oil starts to melt (it melts at temperatures above 76 degrees), briefly place the mixture in the fridge to help it set.
  7. Frost the cooled cookies, and let them set in the fridge for a more solid-frosting.lemon cookies lemon cookies - done
  I really like these cookies, and both my boys young and young at heart love these cookies.  The original recipe states you can also chill the dough and then cut out shapes by smushing out a bit on the silpat/ parchment and using a cookie cutter.  I’m afraid I don’t have time for pretty this year… I’m so glad to have time for yummy!
We hope you are enjoying this phase of the holidays.  It can be so overwhelming and so hard to stick with dietary goals.  Just remember, every meal and every snack offers another chance to make healthy choices.  Don’t beat yourself up over the slips.  Remember the Baby Steps and which we’ll be getting back to very soon.  Happy Holidays!

Spicy Sweeties – My New Favorite Cookie

While growing up, my sister my mother and I would all gather in the weeks before Christmas and produce cookies… loads and loads of cookies.  As we got older and moved out of the house, we still often found time to perform our ritual cookie fest.  In more recent years, driven in part by the distance between us and in part by a lack of interest on Mom’s part in making any more cookies (ever, thank you very much), my sister and I have satisfied our pre-holiday baking ritual in our own homes, with sporadic help from those around us, then sharing our holiday booty (er, cookies).  And so, for me (and my chief beneficiaries) Christmas has become inextricably tied to little baked yummies.

Having been pounding on the Sugar Busting drum for nearly a year now, this season of warm gooey sweetness brings a sense of disorientation and a little culinary dread.  What will I do about the cookie situation?  Will I renounce all the traditional goodies I’ve been making my entire life? Will I deny my family ALL the pleasure that a holiday tray of sweets can bring?  Will I hand out cookies in my annual gesture of neighborly goodwill?  Yes, probably; no, definitely not; and, we’ll see how much time I have.

In my desire to still have a treat-y Christmas, I’ve doubled down on my efforts to find baked goodies that I can feel good about giving my little people.  Turns out there’s a lot out there, including Big Sis’ fabulous fudge, but you know me, I can’t simply follow a recipe.  I tend to be inspired by a recipe rather than instructed by it, and this time inspiration was glorious. And so without further ado (because how much more rambling can you really take), I give you…

Spicy Sweeties (GF, V) – inspired by oatmeal and chickpea flour cookies on Taste of Beirut.

  • 3 1/2 c oatmeal
  • 1 c chickpea flour
  • 1/2 t salt, baking soda, baking powder
  • 2 medium bananas (very ripe)
  • 1 egg ( I used flax)
  • 1/4 c + 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 t + a dash garam masala (or to taste)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/8 c sunflower oil (or other oil)
  • 3 T tahini (or other nut butter, but the tahini is more delicate than most)
  • 1/4 c chocolate chips or chunks or however you like it
  • 1/4 c chopped pecans
  • 1/4 c shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350.  Grind 2 c oatmeal in food processor or heavy duty blender to make oat flour.  Add chickpea flour and salt, baking soda, baking powder and pulse to combine.  Transfer to bowl and stir in remaining 1 1/2 c oats.  Combine bananas, egg, maple syrup, garam masala, vanilla, oil and tahini either in bowl of standing mixer or in food processor.  (You can, of course also mix these things by hand – I am lazy and have angry finger joints).  The rest of the procedure here is pretty typical cookie stuff.  Add the wet to the dry and mix in whatever way you like to mix cookie dough.  When the dough is fully incorporated, add in the mixy bits and stir to combine.

Drop onto lined or oiled baking sheet with a scoop or tablespoon.  I put my usual dozen on a pan with no drama.  When the pan is full, use a fork (honestly my finger worked better) to flatten the cookies out.  Because there is no butter, they will not melt down the way many butter based cookies do.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until bottoms are brown and there is some browning around the edges.  Cool for a couple of minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to wire racks.  While they are delicious warm because ANY cookie with chocolate in it is yummy warm, the real fabulous complexity of these babies is best appreciated after cooling, when the garam masala shines through.  Delish.

Want to know what else to do with that garam masala? Try warming up with a great big bowl of spicy yum – mulligatawny soup for all!

Holiday Fudge Pleases Mom & Child…. page 10

Oh me oh my.  For a reforming sugar addict the holidays offer that rare combo of plenty and plenty-good-excuses!  I’m sure I’ve used all of these: It is the holidays after all, right?  Tradition!  Hosts and hostesses to please!  Gift givers to mollify!  There is always January to mend my ways!

Well, perhaps we need not so hastily jump off of the wagon into the piles of sugar that surround us.
(If you want a little motivational anger at what the sugar makers have been doing for the last 80 years to bring us to our sweet, unhealthy knees, check out Little Sis’ link to a sugar timeline.)

But placing anger and worry aside….

What if I told you you could have your fudge and eat it too?  What now Marie Antoinette?  Let them eat fudge!  Vive la reve-luscion!

You can tell I’m enthusiastic about this stuff.   This stuff right here…

fudge b

It doesn’t just look good friends.  Oh yes.  I’m happy about this discovery of a fudge that gets it’s creamy richness from almond butter, not evaporated or condensed milk and 18 pounds of powdered sugar.  I happily swiped, and only slightly adapted this recipe from Susan Powers at Rawmazing

Appropriately, she calls it Holiday Fudge

Should probably stick in Disappearing or Revolutionary but I’m gonna go with

Let Them Eat Holiday Fudge

  • 1 1/4 cups almond butter
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (not sure a substitution would work as coconut oil is hard at cooler temps, probably helps firm the fudge)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped ( I used cherries)
  • 1/2 cup dried golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    The only change I made was that I used 1 cup of pecans and a total of 1 cup mixed cranberries, raisins and dried cherries.  If your crowd is really used to sweet you might want to stick to the original, but we all liked this a lot.

1. Mix almond butter, cacao, agave nectar and coconut oil.

3. Mix in dried cranberries, apricots, raisins, and pecans.

4. Press into 8 x 8 pan and refrigerate until set. Cut into 1 inch squares.

Makes 64, 1-inch pieces.

It’s that simple.

Santa drops by for a taste test.  Don't worry his beard grows fast and will be ready for Christmas.

Santa drops by for a taste test. Don’t worry his beard grows fast and will be ready for Christmas.

Little Sis and I will be satisfying our cravings, while trying to hang on to our health and sanity over the next few posts, by bringing you some other healthier holiday treats.  This one is a keeper!  (Do keep it in the frig or at least chilled to maintain firmness!)  We shared this recipe on Wildcrafting Wedensday – a very cool site!

You can also make your own almond butter – and with the price of almonds from Costco – I’m going to try this out!

Extra holiday eating tip: Eat something very healthy before going to the party.  You won’t be as hungry and so tempted, and you’ll have some broccoli under your belt as well!

This recipe was featured on:


Cheese Free Italian? Really?

We have a weakness for Mediterranean foods in my home, and the Americanized versions used to feature heavily in our mealtime rotations.  Pasta, pasta, pasta with tomato sauce, pesto, mushrooms, whatever and plenty of CHEESE please.  And so it was with great curiosity, and more than a little skepticism that I regarded the Raw Zucchini Manicotti on the menu of a fabulous vegetarian restaurant in Asheville.

Vegan and raw manicotti?  Hunh?  It didn’t even make sense to me, but on the recommendation of the diners making fairly obscenely joyful eating noises at the table next door we ordered this odd dish, and (choirs of angels singing here) holy moly it was great.  I described this dish, and the super scene in Asheville at the time and swore to myself, ahem and to you, ahem….. that I would replicate it one day.  That day has come, a mere 7 months later…

Faced with a fridge of zucchini on the edge of spoiling, eggplant that had been sitting far too long, a fresh batch of sunflower cheese, and my friend Somer’s moxerella cheese, I knew it was now or never, well at least not for several more months.  Two Italian dishes without pasta or cheese, coming up.

I started with a dish I’d been thinking about for a while, Eggplant Rollatini.  I turned to my friend Deborah Madison for guidance on this one as I don’t have a lot of eggplant or rollatini experience.  Her version calls for 2 large globe eggplants and about 2 cups of filling – she has several versions of what to fill it with.  I had one medium regular dark purple eggplant (that color STILL gets me) so I decided to follow her quantity advice for filling and use it for both the eggplant and the zucchini dishes.

Dairy Free Eggplant Rollatini

  • 1 medium sized eggplant
  • 1 c cheese type (or cheeze type in this case) filling
  • herbed olive oil for drizzle
  • fresh tomatoes (or leftover tomato sauce) for condiment

I followed Deborah Madison’s basic rollatini procedure.  Cut the eggplant into slices 1/3 inch or less (or they’ll be unrollable).  Sprinkle slices with salt and let stand (to remove some moisture).  Rinse the slices and blot dry. Brown in a warm pan with oil (you could do this a variety of ways).  Don’t worry if they look dry.  Remove from heat.  When cool enough to manage, plop about 2 Tbs of filling in the center and roll it up – secure with toothpick if necessary.  Because my eggplant was not very large, rolling became tucking.  Perhaps I should call mine Eggplant Tuckatini…  These can be stored in a baking dish, in a single layer covered with foil until you are ready to eat (i.e. great make-ahead dish).  When ready, preheat oven to 400 and bake until warm through 20-25 minutes.  Serve with herbed olive oil and tomatoes (or sauce).

Vegan Raw Zucchini Womanicotti (hehe)

  • 2 medium sized zuchhini
  • 1 c filling as above
  • herbed olive oil as above
  • fresh tomatoes as above

This dish has the biggest flavor bang for the effort of any I have every made.  No lie.  It was sublime.  My husband made obscene noises while eating – while that may not appeal to you, it was intended as an indication of high approval.  To prepare the zucchini I used a mandoline (I know AAAGGH you’ll cut your finger off).  I VERY CAREFULLY used a mandoline.  I suppose you could do it by hand, but that would require far greater knife skills than I possess and I am quite sure I would truly cut my finger off then.  At any rate, you want the zucchini cut lengthwise in a thickness that you could conceivably roll.  Lightly salt the zucchini and let it set a while so some of the water comes out – will help with the rolling.  Blot zucchini dry.  Plop an amount that looks sensible in the middle of the roll and wrap the sides around it.  Honestly, I’m not super aesthetically gifted in food prep, so I imagine you could find a way to do this that would create a prettier product, but I was late, we were hungry and the kids were losing it, so there you are.  Drizzle with oil and tomatoes.  Eat and revel in simple amazing yum.

Cheeze Filling

Put in food processor.  Blitz.  Done.  I was tempted to add herbs, and next time I might, but I thought the olive oil would be a safer way to add more flavor while preventing child rebellion due to “little green things in the cheese part.”  It would be yummy with some basil, rosemary or thyme, but it was fabulous just like this.

Herbed Olive Oil

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • small handful basil

I put these into a blender and made lovely green herby oil, but there’s no reason you couldn’t chop the basil and add it to the oil by hand.

The family verdict?  The eggplant detractors were not convinced, but I enjoyed it.  EVERYONE ate the zucchini.  The adults watched in horror as the children had seconds, limiting our potential scarfing.  Amazing.  I will make MUCH more next time.  I will also be thinking about how to make it appetizer sized.  Delish and for us a delightful reminder of a glorious spring day in the mountains.

Sickly Sweet History

I think it’s no mystery to those of you have been following along that the Sis sisters think cutting sugar is a great first (second, third and twelfth) step for charging down the road to a healthier you.  What many folks don’t realize is that our consumption of sugar has skyrocketed over the last few decades.  I was surprised, and a little horrified, to read about some of the marketing strategies that helped us get so comfortable with our sickeningly sweet friend.  Maddie Oatman provided this fascinating timeline of our commercial history with sugar  – an interesting and troubling read.

As we approach yet another holiday, we will be surrounded by the sweet stuff.  If you want some tips on cutting sugar from your everyday meals, take a look at our sugar busting series of posts, or make a decision to baby step it out of your diet starting now.  Am I saying I won’t be having some sweets later in the month?  No, no way, not a chance.  I AM saying I’m going to do what I can until then to eat as healthfully as possible, appreciating the goodness of naturally sweet and savory food. We’ll have more to say in the coming weeks about how to make it through the holiday healthfully, but for now, give that sugar bowl the boot, or at least give it the cold shoulder now and again – it doesn’t deserve you.