Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma.

In the end, these were not as fry-like as I would have liked, but if I had cooked them longer, they might have been. Regardless of the non-fry nature, these carrots were delicious. And we had a 75% approval rating, which in our house means it was a winner. And who knows, next time I make them, maybe everyone will like them. I only changed the recipe a little… I swear.

Oven Baked Carrot Fries

    •  photo IMG_0684.jpg1 1/2 pounds carrots (10 medium)
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 1/2 t sugar (I used coconut)
    • 1/2 t salt
    • Pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 425.

Wash and peel carrots (I will not peel next time – why bother?). Cut into fry sized lengths. I cut them in half crosswise and then into vaguely fry sized pieces. I now acknowledge that the size of my fries may have been part of the non-fry result. Moving forward…

Place the cut carrots in large bowl with olive oil and seasoning. Place on large baking sheet (I used a jelly roll panand I DO love my jelly roll pans for just about everything – and no, I’ve not made a jelly roll, in fact don’t really know what a jelly roll is…) lined with tin foil. Spread out carrot fries as much as possible. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the carrots reach the right tenderness (or they seem like fries you lucky devil). Serve with world famous nutshroom burgers and a salad, or whatever you need to serve to make your picky pants okay with carrot fries. :-)
 photo IMG_0672.jpg  photo IMG_0676.jpg  photo IMG_0677.jpg

GF Pancake Mix – Making Time for Pancakes

What if some fine morning when you have time to make pancakes you used 3 or 4 bowls?  1 bowl for the pancakes to make that day and the other 2 or 3 bowls to add all of the dry ingredients for another morning’s pancakes?  Might make it easier to get those cakes going on a busier morning…..

I’m still thinking about saving time, so when I saw this post from our good friend Annie at Unrefined Vegan, I decided I had to give it a GF go.  Please feel check out her version which is chock full of interesting grains and flours as well as the idea that you can flavor up a batch of pancakes or waffles once you start with the basic recipe.   Gluten free or Gluten full – pancakes are a lovely way to start the day and we’re going to see if I can whip up a batch of pancakes tomorrow morning before school if I have the head start of pre-mixing all of the dry ingredients.

First I added the following ingredients to 3 different bowls:

1 cup oats
1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix)
1/2 cup other GF flour like buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, millet – whatever!
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt

20140821_100053-001

I actually performed this part of the experiment in the afternoon, so I used one large measuring cup/bowl so that I could just add the wet ingredients in the morning.

I transferred the contents of the other 2 bowls to jars for storage:

pancakes2

Come morning I added:
2 eggs (flax eggs if you prefer)
2 Tbsp apple sauce
1 Tbsp oil (I used avocado)
1 cup milk (I used almond)
Add more milk a little at a time to reach desired consistency

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes

Cook on pre-heated skillet or griddle.

Toss on a few nuts or dried fruit or coconut to spice things up a bit and enjoy some hot and hearty pancakes on a school morning.

pancakes4 Now admittedly, I chose to do this on a Friday when my son buys lunch so there is a little less going on in the kitchen on those days and it did still take me 20 minutes to cook all of the pancakes, but I started turning the pancakes out to those at the table (with whom I could still talk) and it was a nice change to have pancakes on a school morning.  We’ll do it again now that there are 2 jars of pre-mixed pancake mix waiting for me!

This might also make a nice gift.,.. along with a little fancy jam or maple syrup.

We have lots of other pancake recipes because we LOVE pancakes and you might especially be interested in trying Little Sis’ maple cashew butter, or our other ideas for pancake toppers that are lower in sugar.

Help for Hummingbirds : Kids & Real Food

I am feeling it a little bit lately, although I am trying to dodge and weave and can’t get ‘it’ in focus.  Like the hummingbird outside the window I just tried to photograph to share with you,  things are feeling kind of fuzzy.  I know that if I open the front door to get a shot from the front porch, she will probably fly away so I am enjoying her and will let you imagine her vibrant green back and her tiny wings that look thick with frenzied speed while the rest of her stays steady and immobile.  Apparently my steady, immobile persona still fools friends who are surprised anytime (and everytime) we eat anything less than perfectly nutritious, yet my wings are getting a bit tired with the attempt to provide healthy, real food in this culture.  So my hard edges as The Food Regulator (TFR) are beginning to blur a bit.

There is a hummingbird out there valiantly staying afloat against all odds.

There is a hummingbird out there valiantly staying afloat against all odds.

Not to complain, but between work, graduate school, TaeKwonDo (which my son and I do together) and home and family, I am starting to wear down a little.  I don’t tell you this for sympathy or “pride of busy-ness” (the 8th deadly sin),but because I am sure that many of you are similarly stretched.  There just isn’t enough time in the day to do all of the cooking and gardening that I used to do and would like to do.  So I have decided that a little controlled erosion is in order lest the whole mountain be undermined and bury us in an avalanche of mcnuggets, doritos and moon pies.

All right, I exaggerate, I don’t think our decline would be quite that drastic, but I will share with you the plan for maintaining my real food airspace and keeping those wings vibrating at mind numbing speed.

I’ve been ‘just saying, No’ for a long time – why is it harder now?  Much of the difficulty is time related, but it is also related to social situations.  My son, who is now 13, has a best buddy who I adore.   He is sweet, polite, eager and just all around a great kid.  A great kid who subsists on Taco Bell and Dr. Pepper.  Several of the times he has spent the night he has gone home without breakfast because he wouldn’t eat anything that I had in the house.  I’m serious.  Not even my natural peanut butter and whole fruit / no sugar added jam on whole wheat bread….. not even whole grain pancakes with as much real maple syrup as his heart desired…. Not even Barbara’s Puffins.  I hate to lessen the chances that this kid is coming over to hang out.  My son has other friends who are also shocked at the selection in our ‘cafe’ (what’s that round red thing with a stem?) and I really would rather they hung out here at least some of the time so I get to know them….. and I know what they’re up to ;-).

This hummingbird needs some help.

My first step to getting back on track in a sane fashion is honesty with my family and the recruitment of help.  The honesty part comes in talking more about why we eat what we eat.  I learned that part of my son’s new-found energy in requesting pizza, chips or ice cream everyday is plain ol’ rebellion.  We had a long overdue discussion (with the hummingbird listening in) about why a kid as bright as he is, who is very focused on his athletic activities, continues to request poor, and even dangerous fuel for his wonderful body.  He admitted that he often talks lovingly of McDonald’s in my presence to irritate me.  We also discussed that perhaps buying lunch on Friday when the school has pizza is not a good idea if it gets him requesting pizza all of the time.  This was a powerful deterrent.  I suggested that perhaps he is an all or nothing guy when it comes to junk food, and since he isn’t going to get ‘all’ under my roof, perhaps we’d better try ‘nothing’.  This suggestion is what brought out the admission (without harsh lights or cigarette smoking detectives) that he partly talks about junk food to enjoy my reaction.  Ah yes, I will now think lovely thoughts, keep those wings moving and gracefully approach another lavender tinged flower while I savor the possibilities rather than peck out one of his eyes ;-)  So we are re-visiting discussing why we eat what we eat, what those foods do for us physically and remembering that one way to control the amount of junk food eaten is to eliminate it all together.

Next I am asking all of his friends who come over what kind of foods they like so that I can find some common ground.  The favorite friend likes scrambled eggs – and he thought that the organic eggs he ate at our house were the best he ever had.  Score one for the hummingbird!

As far as recruiting help, we all sat down this morning and planned out the next week and part of the following week of meals.  Everyone contributed suggestions, everyone helped look up recipes and a shopping list was created to reflect this plan and avoid extra trips to the store.  We have done this (and shared this with you) in the past, but we stopped doing it.  Hindsight reveals the power in planning our meals.  There is nothing like a break between semesters to get our act back in gear.  Here’s my trusty write-on-wipe-off planner.  I have 2 and they are magnets that go right on the refrigerator.  Pretty nifty:

20140817_090359

The upper entries of the first week spots are for what is going to school for lunch that day.  We will re-visit this plan next Sunday and complete next week and probably part of the next.

In addition, my son likes to bake and will bake some and my husband is picking out some crockpot recipes that he can handle (he’s an awesome dish washer….).  This leaves leftovers (always make extra!!!!) for lunches!

So honesty and recruitment have my wings beating a little stronger again.

Next, I am lowering the bar on a few things as the bar is currently too far above my head to reach.

- I no longer make almond milk.  We buy it.  I prefer the homemade with no additives at all, but there it is.

- I will not be baking much for school this year, and because I am working full time and we have a little extra money we will indulge in the ready-made treats from the more health conscious bakers at Nature’s Bakery, Larabar, Clif, and even Kashi since they agreed to stop using GMO ingredients in their products.  Basically I go into the health food section at my Kroger, look for sale signs, read labels, and get whatever is healthiest and slightly reasonable.  Not only does this satisfy the request for a sweet-ish thing with lunch, but because it is packaged it is apparently more socially acceptable.  I know, gag me with a spoon, but a little compromise is in order to keep this increasingly independent boy from utilizing all of his spending money to by junk food.

- The boys are eating more meat when I am not home.  I don’t like to eat much meat, we try to eat all organic meats and sustainable fishes but my boys really like their meat – so they eat it more often when I miss dinner because I am working a 12 hour shift at the hospital.  This is easier for them, and again, creates, rather than uses, leftovers which we use for lunch.

It’s coming back into focus now!

Honesty, help and a lower bar.  Still eating real food the vast majority of the time.

20140817_071102

I can see the flowers now that we are all looking together and now have the energy to stay aloft.  I have no illusions that the struggles are over but a re-set sure helps.  If you need a re-set for feeding your kids healthy stuff or addressing issues over school lunches and choices, check out these old posts:
Enabling the Lunchable
Small Mouths, Small Bites
Veggie-licious Snacks
Previous post about meal planning and snack packing

Keep beating those wings my friends, and please share some of your challenges and successes (or failures) in convincing kids to eat healthfully and/or feeding friends who are not accustomed to real food.

 

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF)

The garden continues to produce green squash at a startling rate. What a lovely problem to have. If the plants keep up like this I will surely shred and freeze a good bit of it for use in zucchini bread and mac and cheez in the colder months, but it’s nice to have some to use right now, today, when our thoughts are turning toward books, notebooks, pencils (I love the smell of new pencils) and  LUNCHBOXES. It is time for Momma to get busy making some reasonable goodies for those lunch boxes.

 photo IMG_0658.jpgWhile I was thinking about the need to start baking for school and noticing the abundant zucchini, the internet happened and mashed them together for me. I was inspired and responded with my usual “Ooooh, that looks good. What ingredients should I change?” The result got a straight yummy thumbs up from 3 of the 4 of us and even earned a “pretty good” from Ms. Picky Pants. That is a good cooking day in my house. Because of the lower fat content, these cookies are a little more biscuity than most, but ring all the necessary cookie bells to satisfy treat eaters who are willing to overlook the little flecks of green, which I think are beautiful, BTW. And so, without further ado, I give you…

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF) inspired by these beauties.

 photo IMG_0657.jpg

  • 2 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 3 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 3/4 c applesauce
  • 1/4 + 1 T maple syrup
  • 4 T coconut oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c grated/shredded then chopped zucchini
  • 2 c chocolate chips of your choice (DF if that’s your thing)

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Before you get started with the other bits, I would suggest draining the zucchini. These squash hold a surprising amount of water that can leak out while cooking and produce a steaming effect on your food that is not always desirable. To do that, place the chopped zucchini (my little man suggested chopping it smaller after seeing the shreds – “too big for cookies Mom”) in a fine mesh sieve, adding a dash of salt, stir and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Then press with a spoon to release more water. The rest of the preparation here follows the usual cookie procedure of combining dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another and then joining the two. Combine the flour, baking soda, sugar, oats and salt in one bowl. Whisk to integrate. Combine eggs, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla in a smaller bowl and whisk to combine (this will be considerably easier if the applesauce is NOT super cold as that tends to harden the coconut oil). Add wet to dry and stir to combine. Add zucchini and stir to distribute. Add chips and stir to distribute.

 photo IMG_0635.jpg  photo IMG_0641.jpg  photo IMG_0642.jpg

Place dough on parchment sheets in blobs approximately 1 1/2 Tbs large (I use one of these cookie scoops). Then gently press with a spoon or fork to flatten a bit (they will not do it on their own and your end result will be weird if you don’t). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges have slightly browned. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 3 minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack. You should eat one at this point, while the chocolate is still melty. Delish!

Pickled Green Beans

Our Pantry Penchants are sometimes quite clear.  We have toyed at times with re-naming the blog My Sister’s Sweet Potatoes…. My Sister’s Pancakes….. and now I guess we’ll have to consider My Sister’s Pickles as well.  I hope you like pickles as well as I do, so you won’t mind another pickle recipe, and I offer the explanation that my preference for pickles is related to a problem.  My son, who used to enjoy lots of raw vegetables has somehow lost his taste for raw veggies.  We have a rule that before any non-produce snack is eaten, a piece of produce must be consumed.  Fruit is easy and always an option, but in the past he was also willing to eat raw sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, carrots, green beans, slightly pickled (raw) cucumbers or salad (although that is generally only with a bit of pressure).  We do also keep leftover roasted potatoes and other cooked veggies as an option but as far as raw vegetable go, we are down to pickled (raw) cucumbers, carrots (under duress) and salad (duress-er).  He eats cooked vegetables and I still freely load any dish with veggies that I can, but I’m thinking that perhaps if I can cold-pickle some more veggies, that would provide us with another veggie snack.  These green beans are not strictly raw, but they aren’t cooked much…. so I’m going to give it a go!  The recipe I found was a dill-y concoction but my son generally prefers the sweet (surprise, surprise), so I made up a batch of both which are currently getting flavored up in the refrigerator.  I leave you the recipes and then I will sleep while my green beans soak in flavor!!

Pickled Green Beans – adapted from Marlene Koch’s Eat What You Love Everyday, as presented by Snack Girl on her blog

1 cup distilled vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 garlic clove (Ms. Koch used 2 garlic cloves)
1/4 cup sugar (Ms. Koch used 1/3 cup sugar)
1 tsp salt (Ms. Koch used 1 Tbsp salt)
1 tsp dill weed (Ms. Koch used 2 tsp dill weed)
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder ( I put smallest pinch of hot pepper)
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed cut into pieces that will fit in your jar and pot

Combine everything  but beans in a pan that will also accommodate your beans and simmer & stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add beans and simmer for 2 minutes for crunchy beans – 3 for less crunchy.  Turn off heat and let come to room temperature before loading in jar and storing in frig.  Letting them sit for awhile will make the flavor stronger.

Pickling

Pickled Sweet Green Beans

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp mustard seed
3/4 cup water

Combine everything  but beans in a pan that will also accommodate your beans and simmer & stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add beans and simmer for 2 minutes for crunchy beans – 3 for less crunchy.  Turn off heat and let come to room temperature before loading in jar and storing in frig.  Letting them sit for awhile will make the flavor stronger.

Pickling2

 

Okay, so morning has arrived – that was fast, wasn’t it?

Here are my vinegary minions awaiting inspection….

Pickling 3 Note the cucumbers which are almost always sitting in a briney solution in my frig…

So with the help of my rawly recalcitrant young man, we took some of the dilly and some of the sweety pickled green beans and tried them, dilly first -
Me: Wow!  Awesome!
Rawly Recalcitrant Young Man (RRYM): (Unable to speak while making disgusted face)
Me: Really?  You’re being dramatic – these are delicious!
RRYM: No, really, I don’t like those.

Okay now for the sweet pickles
Me: Wow! Awesome!
RRYM: Yuck – I don’t like those either, I don’t think green beans were meant for pickling Mom.
Me: (noticing lack of disgusted face for the sweet ones) So if you had to choose between eating the sweet ones and broccoli, what would you choose?
RRYM: The pickles.

Well, in the pantheon of vegetables, broccoli is at the bottom of RRYM’s list, so I guess that’s progress.  I don’t think I’ve particularly solved my problem regarding my son’s snacking, but I’ve certainly helped mine!  I’m taking some of each of these pickles and having a delicious snack!

Pickling4

And yes, as I mentioned we have a few other pickle posts…..

Little Sis’s Fabu sweet and sour pickles

My recent refrigerator dills

Little Sis’s pickled carrots

I think my next raw pickling experiment will be with cauliflower…. No illusions that he’ll eat that, but who knows?

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (GF,DF)

 photo IMG_0567.jpgIt would seem that I am not the only gardener overrun by zucchini this year, and I’m with most of the gardeners who responded to my last post; I’m delighted to have this problem of what to do with all of my zucchini. A few years ago a pal of mine posted a recipe on her Facebook page during the height of zucchini season. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and by the ingredient list which includes Maryland’s favorite spice mix, Old Bay Seasoning.

And so I began my usual process of fiddling, seeing how far I could move within the recipe while achieving the desired results. Over time I’ve adapted my friend’s lovely summer recipe and it is a zucchini staple in our house. While I won’t say that these actually taste like crab cakes (because my mother and many other Marylanders would be appalled by that idea), the flavor of these babies SUGGESTS crab cakes and they are just darned tasty crab facsimile aside. If Old Bay is not available in your area (I nearly passed out when I couldn’t buy it in California years ago), look for spice mixes intended for steamed spiced crabs, but be sure they don’t include super large chunks of spice as many shrimp boil spice mixes do OR try a homemade version like this one.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes serves 4

 photo IMG_0579.jpg

  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 c garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 T sunflower cheese (you could use mayo)
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T Bragg’s Amino Acids (or soy sauce)
  • 1-2 T Old Bay

The key to working with zucchini is to remember that it is FULL of water. In order to get browning in a pan, zucchini needs to be lightened of some its moisture load. To do this put your grated zucchini in a strainer with a sprinkle of salt stirred in. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes. I use that time to gather and measure the rest of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Use a utensil to press zucchini to extract even more water. When you think you’ve pushed out all the water you can, wrap the zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze out as much as you can. Your zucchini will look a little less appealing after all this, but trust me, it’s well worth the momentary aesthetic sacrifice.

 photo IMG_0569.jpg  photo IMG_0573.jpg  photo IMG_0575.jpg

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to incorporate. Mixture should be wet, but able to hold a patty shape. If they are too wet to hold form, add a little more flour. Form into  patties of whatever size you like. I made 8 “cakes” with my mixture. Heat oil in pan to medium and add the cakes. Allow them to brown on the bottom (this will mean leaving them alone for a couple of minutes, although as you can see I overshot for a couple). Flip and brown on the other side. Remove from heat. Serve with a big fresh garden salad. Happy summer!

Bountiful Veggies = 4 meals with one evening of work

Okay, it’s the bottom of the 8th, (Monday night)….. you’re the home team, (cook), and you find yourself with lots of infielders (vegetables) but no plan for their use and you just can’t imagine how to get through the next 3 or 4 innings (meals) without a pinch hitter (help!!!).  Okay, okay, so the men with whom I live (one very young and the other, like me, not so young anymore) have filled my life with baseball talk, but baseball makes for good summertime analogies.   I’ve grown to enjoy baseball even though it seems to be on every night!!, but I confess that I do get tired of cooking every night, especially in the summertime.  Both of my men help out with the dishes but neither likes to cook nearly so much as they like to eat.  Plus, I’ve got veggies from the garden as well as an abundance of cheap summer produce that I couldn’t resist buying at the grocery store. The plan, therefore, is to take care of several meals at once with less than 1 hour of time – not all of it requiring me to be present.  Peek out the window, look in the frig – send a runner out to 2nd base (to pick) or to 3rd base (to buy) some veggies and keep the team fed for several days.

On this particular day on the pitchers mound, I had yellow peppers, swiss chard, zucchini, eggplant, red onion and baby portabella mushrooms. I didn’t think a pile of these on a plate in their whole form would go over so well, and they were not going to be fresh for very long so I chopped them all. Go ahead, slice and dice whatever you have in the frig or just picked that is not already ear-marked for use in the next few days. You don’t have to dice them small, just cut ‘em into hunks.

I then chose to roast half the zucchini, eggplant and peppers, along with the red onion tossed in a little avocado oil (or oil of your choice) and salt at about 400 degrees for about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.

20140715_180604

The other half of the zucchini, peppers and eggplant were sauteed with the mushrooms, a couple of cloves of garlic, 1-2 tsp each of basil, thyme and oregano (throw in rosemary as well if you like – I do), and salt adding as much swiss chard (or spinach or WHATEVER green) as you can stuff into the saute pan when you are satisfied with the tenderness of your eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini. Let the greens wilt, stirring.

20140715_180547-001

Okay, so now that you’ve prepared these massive quantities of vegetables you have many dinner options – and vegetables that will keep more than a few days, or can be frozen for a future easy meal.

ROASTEE: To the roasted vegetables add: 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 – 2 tsp Tabil spice blend
OR some more salt and pepper to taste
OR some soy sauce and sesame oil
OR some mexican spices like ground cumin, oregano and chili powder

Serve any of these over grain;
with or without meat, tofu, tempeh or nuts (walnuts and pistachios are particularly good with such blends)
or on top of baked potatoes or mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes;
Or in pita pockets with hummus or hummus mixed with a little extra lemon juice
Or over tortilla chips with salsa and/or cheese

I have never frozen roasted vegetables because we also eat them as snacks, or added to salads cold, and they don’t last long enough to make it to the freezer.

SAUTEE: Split the sauteed veggies in half.  Freeze one half.  To the remaining half add one 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (or equivalent fresh, and one 6 oz. can tomato paste and serve over pasta, potatoes or grain.

The frozen half can be use for the same purpose several weeks later when they’re itching for pasta again and all you have to do is provide something to go under it.

And of course you can top your pasta with whatever you like – cheese or vegan toppings.

And when you’ve loaded up the roasting pans and the frying pan and there’s a bit left over, pop it into small containers to send in someone’s lunch or to camp…. or to the baseball game!  Because who needs nasty, dry, chemicalized popcorn when you can have these golden beauties?

20140715_180634-001

Enjoy the bounty of summer, the bounty of evenings with half prepared meals awaiting you, and the joy of hearing your favorite announcer tell you (and the kitchen), “That one is outta here folks – See you Later!!”

The Zucchini “Problem” and My Vegetti

 photo IMG_0567.jpgThose of you who’ve grown zucchini know that if the plant works, you go very quickly from wondering if you’ll ever get any zucchini to stuffing zukes in neighbor’s mailboxes when they’re not looking to offload some of your surplus. For the past several years my zucchini have been decidedly in the NOT WORKING category, so I’ve not had to force squash on the cul-de-sac, but this year (largely I think because I got ahead of the bugs early), we have zucchini.

While I like zucchini, I admit that even I am not a fan of the traditional sautéed squash, so I’ve become a zucchini seeker. How else can we use this prolific nutritious gift without having it be, well, yucky? Big Sis and I have shared a few zucchini secrets in the past, but I found a new, and perfectly lovely solution, right there in the “As Seen on TV” display. If you just laughed, then you should admit that you’ve been tempted to look yourself. I just couldn’t stop myself when I saw a little gadget that claimed that it would spiral cut my vegetables for $10 and would fit in a drawer, the Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Cutter. I snatched that little sucker up.

And let me tell you what. It works. It actually does what it apparently says it does on TV. With little effort and about a minute of turning I had enough spiral zucchini noodles for 2 adult dinner sized portions – from one zucchini. Nice.
 photo IMG_0493.jpg  photo IMG_0495.jpg  photo IMG_0497.jpg

 photo IMG_0499.jpgBeing fans of Mediterranean food, we naturally concluded that we could put tomato sauce right on those bad boys and call it dinner, but we were feeling a little zesty, so we went in another direction, sort of a deconstructed zucchini chili mac.I simply prepared the fixins that I would normally serve for us to make burritos and instead of wrapping everything up in a tortilla, we served it on top of zucchini noodles. And it was delish. My vote on the Vegetti? A resounding yes, and I can’t wait to make some zucchini noodles for Pasta Sunday. Next time I post I’ll have another fab zucchini suggestion straight from the heart of Maryland. Hope you’re all having a lovely summer!

Buying Healthy at Costo: My Faves

The first time I went to Costco it was with a neighbor. I told her I don’t do well in large stores with lots of different kinds of things to see. “Let me guess; you freeze up?” Why yes, yes I do. She shrugged and said, “Don’t worry. John does the same thing. I’ve got practice. I’ll get you through.”

I like to think that I’ve gotten a little better at managing my scene at Costco. I no longer need a guide or sherpa. I’ve never been tempted by the vehicles or pianos (although I confess camping gear can get a little dicey). I attempt to take a list, and sometimes I even stick to it (silence in the peanut gallery please). At any rate, through all this increasingly disciplined procurement I have discovered that Costco has some remarkable deals on some healthful foods. These have become staples for me that make it easier for me to plan highly nutritious meals or to fake a planned meal with high quality ingredients. While Costco does offer a significant amount of prepared food, they also have a remarkable number of real food ingredients. If you are skeptical, or still in the frozen stage of your Costco relationship, I thought I’d share my top healthful purchases at our local Costco, so you can guide yourself through the onslaught of offers.

1) Produce  photo IMG_0510.jpg

There are a lot of good deals on produce at Costco, although many of them are packaged in ways that I just can’t stomach, so I’m going to focus on the really exceptional, and less poorly packaged, deals here. My favorite Costco discovery is the bag of Power Greens. It has several hearty greens mixed together and is perfect for adding to salads, soups, smoothies, and anything else you would normally add greens to. Don’t forget greens freeze just fine, so the size of the bag shouldn’t put you off. It’s 4.99 for a massive bag of greens that you would normally buy in little piddly amounts in a plastic box. Carrots are also an exceptional Costco score provided you use them a lot. We are carrot lovers and use our 10 lb bag in plenty of time. This bag comes with two bags inside, so it would also be easy to split with a carrot loving friend. Avocados at a dollar apiece? Yes please.

 photo 5979419c-4a0e-404b-a85d-b976cce8135e.jpg  photo IMG_0521.jpg  photo IMG_0514.jpg

Frozen produce is also a good deal with organic sweet peas going for just over a dollar a pound. Our Costco also offers frozen organic corn and mixed vegetables. You can find other great deals on dried fruit at Costco. They offer a wide variety of high quality dried fruit at lower than grocery store prices. Just check the ingredients to find the varieties that do not have added sugar. ;-)

2) Nuts and Seeds

While Costco does not fill my raw cashew needs, they manage to answer all my other nut cravings and requirements, and again they do it at prices that consistently beat grocery stores, even those with bulk bins. Kirkland almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios are permanent residents on my Costco list. We’ve also gotten pine nuts and chia seeds there (prohibitively expensive at the market, and they do keep just fine).

 photo IMG_0542.jpg  photo IMG_0537.jpg  photo IMG_0541.jpg

3) Grains and Beans

 photo IMG_0546.jpgOrganic brown rice at Costco rings in at 1.16 per pound. Costco also sells sprouted dried beans and organic quinoa at better than grocery store prices.

4) Nut Butters While with the nut prices Costco has, I should really be making my own nut butters, I confess that I don’t. This is one place where I let convenience win the day. Kirkland brand organic peanut butter is a staple in our house. We’ve recently been pleased to also find organic almond butter, both at substantially lower prices than I can find them in the market.  photo IMG_0526.jpg  photo IMG_0528.jpg

5) Pantry Staples  photo IMG_0534.jpg

This is the category for a miss-mosh of ingredients that we buy at Costco and that we’ve found to be higher quality, and less expensive, than any of our other local options. Our Costco pantry staples include: Kirkland maple syrup, Kirkland extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, and Kirkland balsamic vinegar.

6) Beverages  photo IMG_0519.jpg

While we no longer buy most of the packaged beverages offered at Costco, we do enjoy the screamin’ deals on snooty coffee. If you are a whole bean coffee purchaser, you should check their prices out. We also occasionally take advantage of sales on coconut water.

7) Bread  photo IMG_0508.jpg

We have had a good experience with whole grain sandwich bread at Costco and have also occasionally enjoyed the gigantic stack of whole wheat tortillas that they sell for the same price as a dinky grocery store package.

8) Better Junk While we typically eschew junk food, the occasional whole grain tortilla chip goes a long way toward limiting the sense of overwhelming deprivation that can consume my kids. Costco has great prices on a few items that I would categorize as better junk. We typically buy one of these for gatherings or vacations and enjoy the leftovers.

 photo IMG_0505.jpg  photo IMG_0502.jpg

So there you have it, the bulk of my permanent Costco list on my phone (which the children now read and manage in a very dictatorial fashion, much to my chagrin). One of the biggest barriers to healthier eating is the cost of high quality ingredients. If you already have a Costco membership, check out these amazing deals. If you don’t have one, but are now tempted, consider giving it a try – or touring the store and doing the personal calculation of whether or not it makes sense for you, or for you and a friend. I am staring at that picture of chips as I write this… I am weak in the face of chips. Hope you are all having a glorious summer and if you are already a huge box store shopper, what are your favorite healthy (or healthier) deals?

Banana Biscuits – GF / DF

Look at all the lovely letters at the end of our recipes indicating what it is and what it ain’t.  Well these biscuits should be GF / DF / not CB, because they are not like cardboard.  They actually had a little fluff going on, and were really quite delightful.  I do love a biscuit, so one that is low on fat and can be eaten by y GF/DF family and friends is great except that it means less for me.  Ah well.  The problem with good food is that other people want to eat up all those potential leftovers, huh?

One key to a good biscuit is a hard fat that gets distributed without melting too fast or weighing things down with liquid.  No butter allowed over here at my house, so coconut oil placed in the freezer before use served the hard fat need.  Banana offered some moisture / replaced some of the fat, and good ol’ Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix removed the wheat from the equation as well.

We ate these with a little orange marmalade and found that to be quite a treat for a weekend breakfast :-)

20140711_083044-001

Banana Biscuits (I will definitely double this recipe next time, but if you want to stick your toes in first, try this amount which yields 4 large biscuits)

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
1/3 – 1/2 cup mashed banana (after mashing.  It was a medium large banana)
1/3 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond)
3 Tbsp hard coconut oil (Stick it in the frig the night before – or in the freezer if you forget)

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix the dry ingredients and zest together.
In a separate bowl (or large glass measuring cup), mash the banana and then mix in the 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.

20140711_075940-001

Add the mixed banana and milk and stir to combine but don’t over-mix or mash.
Spread out on a cutting board or counter to a thickness of about an inch.

20140711_080138-001

Use a glass to cut biscuits.
Place on a cookie sheet
Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes or until browning just a touch on top

20140711_082846-001

Eat warm.

My son ate his with peanut butter….. makes sense, don’t you think?