I confess that I love staying connected to my friends and family with Facebook. It’s true. Social media is also useful when we get to see how much better other people function in situations in which we are… perhaps… slightly less super functional. A moment to explain. When I was pregnant, my interest in food and … Continue reading
Well Hello There! It has been an exceedingly long time since we’ve posted, and mostly that was because we were visiting with friends and family every single minute. It was a truly wonderful holiday and, speaking for myself, I am oddly both rejuvenated and completely exhausted.
During an extended visit with the best friends a gal could have, someone asked how I moved away from cooking from recipes – how I started making recipes up and how I knew what substitutions would work. I know, those of you who’ve been playing along for a while are likely laughing as I’ve presented my move away from recipes as a basic inability to follow directions and recipes of any kind…. this being different from choosing to cook without that level of guidance. The truth is that I do both – I regularly screw up whilst following directions and, hopefully more often, I make conscious decisions to abandon the dictates of the recipe for one reason or another, usually either to make the recipe healthier or because I lack an ingredient and I do NOT shop for a missing ingredient or two (lack of control in grocery stores demands limited exposure).
Since my friend asked, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this evolution occurred, wondering how I got to the point of really only being inspired by a recipe rather than actually following it, and I think there are some basic steps that could prove useful to folks in trying to branch out and/or health it up in their own kitchens. There are myriad lovely cookbooks and blogs full of healthful recipes in the world. There are also ways to change most recipes so that they are 1) healthier, 2) more affordable, and 3) easier to prepare. Here I’ll offer three approaches that have made me less recipe bound and have therefore made me able to adapt all kinds of recipes to my own tastes, dietary needs, and available time: the ingredient swap, the recipe mash up, and flavor profiling. Continue reading
So you know that some pretty nasty stuff goes on at so-called factory farms. (If you don’t know, please watch Food, Inc. because even though you don’t want to know….. you really DO want to know. And if you’d like a short piece of the film about chicken farms, you can watch one here.) We have not eaten beef or pork for a very long time, and further decided to only eat ‘clean’ chicken and turkey. Well, as I’m sure you all know, ‘clean’ poultry costs a lot more. We have 2 solutions for this. We eat less meat: less often, and less of it on the plate when we do it eat it, and I buy whole chicken and make soup after an initial meal or two from the roasted chicken. It’s really not that hard and there is nothing like homemade soup, so if you’ve never done it, here we go….. from raw to roasted to really delicious soup! Continue reading
It doesn’t matter who we’re having or what we’re eating, if I’m cooking for more than our little clan, I just can’t get the amount right. Faced with a holiday dinner, I routinely make about twice what is actually required, sure that I may not be making enough. In my mind every guest is a 14 year old athlete with a limitless metabolism and elastic waistband.
Thus our recent Thanksgiving dinner left us with a giant container of mashed potatoes in the fridge. Now normally I am just fine with lots of mashed potatoes around, but truth to tell I am the only REAL mashed potato fanatic in the house. Mr. Little Sis likes them, but can’t eat them for days and the kids are just not into them at all – there’s only so much a girl can do faced with all that mash. I hated to think of it going to waste… surely there is another way.
While I could have made mashed potato pancakes, we’d had latkes just a few nights before, so no dice there. After being tired, cold, and a little lonely after the long weekend playing games and watching movies with the family, soup just seemed like the thing to do. And what could be easier than making soup from mashed potatoes, especially if you have a leek. This really doesn’t merit a recipe, but I’ll write it out that way to make it easy to follow. You’re welcome.
Leftover Mashed Potato Leek Soup with Wilted Spinach and Basil
- olive oil for the pot
- 1 leek, white and light green parts cleaned and chopped *
- 4 cups mashed potatoes (I used these non-dairy beauties)
- 2 c water
- 1/2 t salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 1 c coconut milk (or whatever you prefer)
- olive oil for the pan
- About 5 ounces of fresh spinach (or as much or little as you like – it DOES shrink a lot)
- 1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
- small handful of fresh basil, chopped
* Leeks are dirty little suckers. When they grow up through the soil, they bring quite a bit with them, trapped in the layers. Cleaning them can be tricky. I simply cut the portion of the leek I intend to use into quarters the long way. I think place those quarters (they will separate – it’s okay) into a bowl of water, let them sit while I prepare other bits, swish them around and then rinse. Works like a charm, every time, and I learned it at fancy cooking school, so it must be right, right? I can say that the bowl of water is always cloudy and dirty – so it seems to do the trick.
Warm olive oil in the bottom of a soup or stock pot, place chopped leeks and a sprinkle of salt in pot, sautéing and stirring occasionally until the leeks are tender and the white parts are a little translucent. Add the mashed potatoes and stir to combine. Add water and salt and stir to combine. Here’s where we’re gonna have some variation. If your mashed potatoes were perfectly cooked, had no lumps and were smooth as silk, you will only need to bring your pot of yum up to temp. If, like most of us, your potatoes were delicious but slightly less than perfect, you may want to bring the pot to a gentle boil to cook the potatoes just a little bit as the flavors mingle. When potatoes have reached the texture you prefer, add the coconut (or whatever) milk and ground pepper. While the soup comes back up to temp, prepare the spinach.
Warm olive oil to low-medium in a pan (I used cast iron). Add spinach, a sprinkle of salt, and the garlic to the pan. Turn/stir spinach frequently to encourage wilting throughout. When nearly all wilted, add the fresh basil. Stir for a little while longer. When all spinach is wilted and bright green, remove from heat.
Serve soup with a few forkfuls of spinach, some lovely bread (ours was a non-dairy apple cheddar quick bread which I’ll share soon), and a salad. Delicious, satisfying, and a great way to use too much comfort food. Hope your holiday provided you with memories, laughter, and leftovers you love to eat over and over again.
I’ve been a baking slacker lately. This only poses a real problem for my kids’ expectation for a “treat” in their lunches. Mind you my lunchbox treats tend to be less sweet than anybody else’s, but it seems that it’s more important that there be something treat-like in there than that the treat in question be of any particular kind. So up to now, I’ve been pretty good about doing just enough baking to keep them supplied with a steady stream of reasonably healthy “treats.”
A few weeks ago I started slipping ‘em low sugar graham crackers – really pretty harmless and something they enjoy. No problem. After a while of that they requested something else – anything else (and who can blame them). I found myself wandering through the prepared treats aisle reading packages of corn syrup laden white flour options as though I had never once baked in my own kitchen. I practically forgot that I used to spend a few minutes just about every weekend assembling a treat that would satisfy both the kids and me. I would bake for our customary Sunday dessert and then serve the rest throughout the week in small lunch sized portions. When I brought home cookies previously deemed pretty wholesome without even reading the label, ate one and felt a film in my mouth and had to stop because it was too sweet to enjoy, I knew I’d hit the proverbial bottom. Which is great, because it led me to spending a little time today making my new favorite dessert, Almond Joy Brownies.
Almond Joy Brownies
The Brownie – adapted from Sarah at Gazing In’s Sweet Potato Fudgy Brownies
- 1/4 c coconut oil
- 2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao if you’re feeling spendy
- 1 c gluten free rolled oats blitzed in food processor until flour like
- 1/4 t baking powder
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 c coconut sugar
- 2/3 c sweet potato puree (baked sweet potato in food processor with enough water to create baby foodish consistency – add water SLOWLY so as not to overshoot)
- 1 T ground flax meal + 3 T water (AKA flax egg)
- 1 1/2 t vanilla
Preheat Oven to 350. Melt coconut oil and add cocoa, stirring to create smooth, silky chocolate that you should not eat. Combine oat flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Combine coconut sugar, sweet potato puree, flax egg and vanilla in medium or larger bowl and whisk until smooth. Add chocolate. Stir to combine. Add dry ingredients (if you’re still holding a whisk, now is the time to switch to a spoon, unless you’re trying to create an “Oh no, I have so much brownie batter stuck in my whisk, however will I get it off…. slurp” kind of scenario. Not that I’ve ever done that. Add a handful or so of your favorite chocolate chips.
Scoop into oiled square baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Look for typical brownie crackling on top and a slightly firm feel in the middle of the pan (that second test is only for those of us in the asbestos fingers crowd). You can try the toothpick test, but these are fudgy, and will not likely come out totally clean. So just look for not wet, mostly clean. Remove and allow to cool in the pan.
- 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- 16 whole raw almonds
Place coconut in food processor. Turn on and let it run, run, run. You’re going to let it go so long that the coconut is going to turn into a liquid. You’ll want to stop it occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl so all of the coconut gets transformed into superific coconut butter. When the contents of the bowl are shiny, let it run a couple more minutes and then place in a container you can put a lid on so you can save the leftover and put it on your toast, in your oatmeal…. yes, the options are mind-boggling..
The You Got Your Coconut On My Brownies Moment
So when the brownies have cooled a little (you don’t have to let them cool completely), spread the coconut butter on top in whatever amount makes sense to you. I tried to show a little restraint because I wanted to chocolate flavor to prevail. If your coconut butter has hardened, gently warm it a little to soften. Place almonds on top – I did a one whole almond per brownie ratio, to get that crunch that I used to love in the Almond Joy, but I think chopped almonds would make for a nice effect as well.
I don’t think I even need to tell you that these were great – what’s not to love? Super dark chocolate flavor, coconut creaminess and that wholesome crunchy almond. Delish. And now I’m ready for those lunch boxes for real.
Serendipity is an appropriate first word for this post. Our contest involved suggesting seemingly odd pairings of food. Sometimes those pairings re a matter of serendipity…. what is on hand,….. what accidentally was added or left out…. or a moment of inspiration. The updated version of chocolate almond butter was also a result of serendipity. That is being kind to myself. It was actually a moment of doing way too many things at one time and therefore not paying attention. So, let’s get organized, I will tell you the winner of 2 heavy, colored Food Network silicone spatulas at the end – and update our chocolate almond butter recipe at the beginning. Continue reading
Miss Picky Pants (known for the remainder of the post as MPP) is a grazer. She is easily overwhelmed by large portions (with the exception of cake, of course), and loves to have just a bit of as many things as possible. In a desperate attempt to have dinner out a few years ago, Mr. Little Sis and I took the twins to a Tapas joint here in our little burg.
Don’t know if you’ve ever walked 4 year old twins into a restaurant before, but I can tell you it’s the rare restaurant staff that greets this moment with true enthusiasm. Weren’t they surprised to find out that as long as they kept the bread and little plates coming, MPP and her all cuisine loving brother would be just fine, thank you very much. To be fair my little MPP, she comes by the small plate thing honestly. I love having bits on the plate to choose from , tie together, nibble on, mop up with bread. Yum. Tonight we had just such a plate. If there had been sections dividing MPP’s food, everything would have been perfecto. All of it was simple, hearty, and super yummy. Perfect for these increasingly cool evenings. A little preview of autumn’s heartier fare. The highlight of the meal, for me, was garlic mushrooms, a classic tapas favorite. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity and its versatility. Want it with rice – rock it out. Over quinoa? Keen. With pasta? Perfection. Garlic mushrooms, a foodie’s best friend. Continue reading
We’ve had quite a week here at Lake HolyCrap. The twins started first grade on Monday and our search for a new furry friend reached its final, and extremely happy conclusion. While the kids were at their second day of school, Mr. Little Sis and I responded to the call from a lovely woman who runs an animal rescue about a half an hour from us. She thought we might be just the people for Baxter, an adult labradoodle mix. We jumped in the car immediately and it’s been love ever since.
Baxter rode home with me yesterday and I had my first experience using a mobile groomer (for the dog, mind you). I didn’t want to traumatize him by taking him somewhere else or leaving him for a couple of hours, so I found the nicest groomer who pulled into our driveway with a trailer that had everything she needed to get rid of our new friend’s matted dreadlocks and leave him much more comfortable and very, very handsome. What’s a nervous new dog Mommy to do while a stranger is tending to her new charge in the driveway? Bake, of course. Continue reading
Ahhh summertime. No school, more free time, right?
Riiiight. Not for the adults in the house. While I love having my sweet boy around, there is less time in the day for things like cooking. And with weather like we’ve been having: mid 80′s, mild humidity, enough rain to keep everything growing… who wants to spend a bunch of time cooking? But there is fresh produce coming out of the garden, including zucchini for the first time in a few years. I just love walking in the house with the IDEA of making dinner from the garden…. but I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it.
A friend brought a dish to a recent gathering that was simply sliced yellow squash baked with a little seasoning and a touch of goat cheese sprinkled on top. It was delicious. So simple. This got me thinking about layering squash and baking it. So simple. Continue reading
That is not THE question, but it is ‘A’ question.
One that I’ve struggled with for several reasons.
1) It’s yet another gadget to buy that sits on the counter and must be cleaned after use
2) It’s expensive to buy the gadget and the requisite pile of fresh fruits and veggies required to produce the Juice.
3) Isn’t it better to get the nutrients from the whole plant rather than just the juice?
Honestly, we have never been fruit juice drinkers perhaps due in part to the gallons of nasty frozen concentrated orange juice forced on me as a child. (I know most people like OJ – I never really did). Perhaps the orange juice tasted so bitter to me because I had placed 3 Tablespoons (an approximation) of sugar on my cold cereal and so ANYthing tasted bitter. At any rate, fruit juice in my adult household has been used as an occasional treat or purely as a source of calories and taste when someone can’t keep any solid food down. It seemed to me that smoothies made much more nutritional sense as they deliver the benefit of the whole plant.
So why am I now juicing?
Several things have changed my mind on this point but due to my stubborn-ness, or my increasingly inflexible knees that only allow me to bend so far… I found a compromise in the juicing that helped resolve objection #3.
The first thing that changed my mind was the film “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” This is a charming film that portrays the power of vegetable nutrition to change health in a big way. The center of the film is a man who is not only overweight but struggles with an autoimmune skin disorder. We’ve got skin stuff goin’ on in this house, so I was interested that he stopped suffering from this problem after changing his diet so dramatically, including juicing.
The second thing was that since we have been juicing I don’t need as much sleep and my skin looks brighter.
The third thing that happened was the realization that my vitamins may not be all they’re cracked up to be. I mean, I read labels on everything else I buy but my tendency when purchasing supplements has been to read the nutritional content but not the source. I had some chosen brands that I trusted to ‘do the right thing’ – will I never learn? See post on Breyer’s frozen dairy dessert and decide that apparently it will take me a long time to learn!! I want food not chemicals. So shouldn’t I want food-based vitamins and not chemicals as well?
So in not reading or investigating the actual ingredients in my vitamins I have been consuming things that are probably better not consumed. This is the article that got me feeling stupid about not reading the labels. Now to be fair, I don’t know how good the science is behind their claims but they make too much sense for me to ignore. When it comes to food I like to say, “If it wasn’t grown, raised and/or harvested from clean, natural conditions…. Don’t eat it!” The same should go for my vitamins. And do I really need vitamins if I am juicing? (Still working on that but certainly I don’t need TOXIC vitamins.)
So enough about why I have begun… here’s my knee-saving compromise.
I juice and then use the juice to combine with some kale or spinach and berries and a little banana and make a powerful smoothie. Jam packin’ the nutrients in there Baby! You got your nutrient dense juice and you got your fiber-rich smoothie with even more nutrients. Never thought I wanted to be dense (see above article about Breyer’s again), but in this case dense is great.
Here’s this morning’s pile of produce:
So, since my son prefers his juice naked – no extra kale. I pour his glass off:
Then I put 2 large handfuls of kale, some berries and 1 frozen banana in the blender. Add the rest of the juice…
Most people juice tons of greens and I am looking forward to having lots of swiss chard from the garden to boost the amount of greens in the juice. Guess that’ll combine with beets to make brown juice. I will have to start working on alliterations with the letter ‘B’.