One Simple Sauce – Several Tasty Meals

Some of my favorite meals are simple.  They are often not the meals that I choose to serve to guests, I guess the show off comes out in all of us sometimes…. or lots of times, however, simple is so important to a majority of what I cooked when I first started cooking…. and before I started trying to show off in a blog ;-).  As Little Sis and I have been writing the Baby Steps series, we have discussed that there are recipes that are ideal for people just getting into cooking.  These are SO important, because biting off more than you can chew can discourage further cooking… but hopefully not further eating.  I have written about sauces in the past because they are the difference between Blah and Bingo!  And Bingo will help you and your family stick with some healthier recipes.I much prefer “Bingo!” to “Do I really have to eat all of this?”

So while preparing a delicious, but not overly simple recipe from Amanda at Good Clean Food I was so impressed with the tofu marinade that I knew it was destined for other uses besides the Gingered Greens with Tofu that she shared.  And if I lost you at the tofu, fear not…. what you choose to marinade or stir fry is between you, your doctor and the animals in your life ;-)   Although I will say that tofu gets a bad rap with folks who’ve never tried it, the truth is that it takes on the flavor of what it is cooked in, AND there are ways to change it’s texture if you don’t like it as is (see notes at the bottom).

So do check out the recipe above…. and do check out this marinade because it is very simple and I’m going to add just afew ingredients to it the second (or third time around to make a VERY easy stir-fry. Continue reading

Go Back Jack – Baby Steps Check In

You go back Jack, do it again.

So says Steely Dan.  And so says the Baby Steps approach to healthy eating.

How are you coming along?  Successes?  Failures?

Build on the successes & Learn from the failures, and most importantly, do it again.

Make that choice again.

Making changes can be much easier with a buddy.  Do you have a friend or relative (or maybe you’re lucky and have both in one like my Little Sis) who would like to eat healthier and look and feel better?  Why not share the Baby Steps with him or her.  Tell your Buddy what you are doing and invite them to come along.  You can even post our Baby Steps button on your blog and invite friends that way.  (The link is on the sidebar).  The more the merrier and the more people eating healthier, the cheaper and more plentiful healthy food will become… in restaurants & schools, at events & practices and in the grocery store.  But it has to start with us, in our homes, in our pantries and in our refrigerators.

And now is a great time to re-check Baby Steps #1 & #2

Baby Step #1 -The ol’ Switcheroo.  What did you switch?  I switched apple butter for maple syrup on breakfast foods.  I’ve had some successes and a couple of failures… but the apple butter is in the fridge and I’ll have more chances to make the switcheroo.  Time for another switcheroo?  Did you find something in your pantry that you know you should live without?  We found too many chips.  We get the ‘healthier’ versions when they’re on sale (by this I mean natural ingredients, good oils, low calorie doesn’t mean healthy, i.e. read the labels), but we’ve begun mixing in more triscuits when making a snack of chips and also substituting popcorn.

Baby Step #2 – Be Fearless, Be Honest

Be conscious of what you are eating and why you are eating it.  Is it for comfort?  Is it for convenience?  Is it for cost?  What can you switch or eat less often on the list of things you know you’d be better off without.  And again, it’s often time to go back to Baby Step #1.  Switching, not losing.  Replacing, by type of food and by function (comfort, convenience, cost).

If you haven’t checked on your pantry yet… give it a go.  Here’s a refresher for Baby Step #3.  Below I’ll give you some links to recipes Little Sis and I use with our standard pantry items.

Brown rice: Sweet potatoes and brown rice for breakfast?  Yes!

Brown rice and lentil casserole dirt cheap and kid friendly
Stir fry using rice
Lentil and oat ‘neatloaves’
quinoa main dish called kichadi – lots of room for variety!
another quinoa main dish with whatever veggies you’ve got : When time runs out on dinner
My personal favorite sweet substitute – Brownie Bites and
an awesome sauce Little Sis came up with that will dress up whatever you’ve got!  Pasta, grains, meat, veggies.  Fabu Asian Peanut sauce

Please feel free to search our site, send us questions, ask us for encouragement.  We’d love to keep your toes pointed in the right direction while you take those Baby Steps towards healthier eating.  You might be behind us, or you might be in front of us but we’re all on the road together so make sure to wave and smile.

Compulsion to Mix It Up = Lunch

This morning I mixed leftover quinoa, leftover cheese sauce from Instant Mac n’ Cheese Without the Box and some frozen peas for my son’s lunch.  He said, “Yay!”

I love it when he says that.

Where would I be without leftovers?  I can answer that.  I’d be standing in line at the hospital cafeteria waiting to pay too much for food that is not very good or very healthy.  So I bring leftovers to work.  Now I know some of you are thinking, “What leftovers?  My family eats almost all of whatever I cook!  There are no leftovers!”  Clearly you are not plagued by an inadequacy complex that compels you to prepare enough food for the hordes that might drop in without warning.  And I’m glad if you are not saddled with that particular compulsion.  This leaves you able to use your own free will and choose to make more food.  More food = more leftovers.

Now, I am not relegating you to eating dry meatloaf every night for 3 days because you made extra.  Honest!  Make extra of the components of a meal and you can mix and match to create new and exciting (for lunch) meals jiffy quick.

I always make too much of the following:
brown rice
quinoa
sauteed vegetables
cous cous
sauteed greens
noodles or pasta
sauces or dressings
roasted vegetables
meat (when we have it – getting rare lately!)
and even nut butter sandwiches

Like having wonderful things in your fridge with which to make Grand-wiches and Expand-wiches, having all of these leftovers around provides you with the building blocks you need to make meals that do not ‘feel’ like eating boring old leftovers.  (They also provide you with the luxury of some dinners that have half the work done already.)

Whenever you saute vegetables; whenever you BUY vegetables, especially when they are on sale, don’t think about one meal.  Think about several meals.

Take the following sautes all prepared in the oil of your choice:

Zucchini, eggplant and spinach with garlic, onion and Italian spices en masse.
Allocate some for making pasta sauce by adding diced or crushed tomatoes,
Allocate some to the freezer for another night’s pasta sauce and,
Allocate some to the refrigerator all by it’s lonesome to add to rice, quinoa, pita bread or over salad for lunch.

Peppers (any color or all colors), green beans and onions with salt and pepper.
Allocate some to serve with tempeh or meat that night,
Allocate some to the frig for making an omelette and,
Allocate some to the refrigerator for the same punitive treatment received by the poor zucchini… leftovers for lunchtime (when mixed with grain, wrap, pita or salad).

Leeks, cabbage, salt, pepper and marjoram (go light on the marjoram – a little goes a long way).
Allocate some to serve as a side dish for dinner,
Put some in the freezer to use in a casserole or bean dish, and
Of course, relegate some to the lunchtime penal colony on the bottom shelf of the fridge.

Peppers, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and onions with cumin and chili pepper.
Allocate some as the basis for your chili – be it with veggies, meat or a soy product
Freeze some for chili or enchiladas another night and,
Place some in the lunchtime section awaiting mixage with frozen corn or rice or tortilla chips.

Spring onions, broccoli, snap peas, sliced carrots, and peanuts with garlic, soy sauce (or Bragg’s) and white pepper.
Some for the stir-fry,
some for leftover stir-fry – make a bunch and as you clean up, plop some straight into lunch sized containers, and if there’s any more left,
Squeeze it onto that luscious layer of lunch fixin’ containers on the bottom shelf.

The list goes on and on for mixes and of course you can change, substitute, and mangle these ideas to your heart’s content!  One of my son’s favorite lunches is leftover peas, leftover noodles and leftover chicken cut into pieces.  It really does not take any longer to prepare than a sandwich and there’s something green in it : )

So whether I am making Grand-wiches and Expand-wiches, or a Bountiful Bowl  from the Bottom Shelf(I know – this is getting out of hand…) I have a variety of items in my fridge that can be cross bred into brand new dishes which will nourish me and my family for a reasonable price.

There were some gorgeous beets at the store today so I sauteed up the beets with garlic and lemon juice, along with some carrots.  Towards the end I added some chopped apple and the beet greens.  My son loved it.  Served it with rice and hemp seed and some raw red pepper.   The leftovers will be delicious mixed in with some salad and or whatever grain is hanging out in the luscious layer!

Bok Choy & Ginger and Broccoli – Oh My!

One of the staples around here is stir fry.  It comes out a little different each time because my approach is similar to that of refrigerator soup.  Refrigerator soup is when you have a carcass with which to make soup and you add whatever happens to be in the refrigerator (or pantry) that has any business at all being in soup.  So my stir fry is usually refrigerator / garden stir fry.

I always start with some heat tolerant oil like safflower and sesame oil mixed together to which I add pressed garlic, fresh ginger and something from the allium family such as spring onions, leek, shallot, or onion.  Fresh ginger is very different from dried and it tastes great, but it is very time consuming to prepare.  Unless, that is, you use the Biggest Bro method.  That is the same Biggest Bro who used to sneeze on his french fries so nobody would swipe them, but he cooks well and this is an awesome way to include fresh ginger – no bodily fluids involved.  Buy your fresh ginger in the produce department – usually in the ‘odd, exotic or international’ section.  Freeze your fresh ginger.  No need to wrap it or put it in a covered container, just stick that gnarly old thang in the freezer.  Then when you want some you just grate it with a fine grater.  Couldn’t be easier and still tastes great.  For especially easy grating, I suggest the microplane that I received from Step Mother.  She does NOT sneeze on her french fries, is an awesome cook and has some of the coolest, simple gadgets around.  This is one of them.

Image

That is the uncovered tub I keep the ginger in because I did find I was having trouble finding it in the morass of nuts, flours and leftovers in my freezer.  A microplane is a lot more expensive than your average grater (14.95 at Amazon) but it is unbelievably effective for this and lemons, parmesan, and other items needing grating.

Image

Anyhow, back to the refrigerator / garden stir fry.

I had some swiss chard, some bok choy, and some beet greens in the garden, but not enough of any one of them for a single ingredient.  So I took what I had of each.  Here’s my bok choy.

I also had some broccoli stems in the frig that I was saving for this or for broccoli cheese soup.  Leeks purchased today (the garden leeks are coming….) in a group of 4, one ought to do it, saving the tops in the freezer to put in stock.

Now broccoli stems are a challenge.  You can buy broccoli slaw in a package at the grocery (expensive but yummy) or you can shred your own with a little work.  First, cut off anything downright objectionable, then use a vegetable peeler to take the outermost layer off.

Image

Then grate starting at the big end.

Image

You will find that as you grate a tougher outer layer starts to hang on and doesn’t grate well.  Just stop now and again, peel it off and continue grating.

Image

When you are done you will have a pile o’ shredded extremely healthy vegetable matter that goes un-noticed by broc-o-phobes.

Image

Once you’ve cooked your oil, garlic, ginger and allium throw in your greens cut into pieces, your broccoli slaw….

Image

And whatever else (or any substitution) currently hanging around in your refrigerator like carrots, or peppers.  Oh look!  I have some snap peas!  Toss em in there.  I have tofu as well!  Cube it – and toss it in.  (Alternately you can cube and saute tofu first to make it a little crunchy or seasoned but this takes longer and makes the whole thing seem more planned.)  I love to add some canned pineapple and some Bragg’s liquid aminos which I substitute for soy sauce.

Image

I’m getting hungry.  Better finish this post and go make a kale smoothie as my boy will be home from school any minute.  Lest you be fooled that I am truly reckless and carefree, this recipe does not vary too much except for the vegetables.  And last but not least I add peanuts on top.

Image

Sorry the picture is a bit fuzzy but I can’t take another one because I ate it.  And it was very tasty too.  Have fun with the simple, fast and healthy varieties of stir fry you can make and tell us about your favorite combos!