Healthier Holiday Fare

I know many of you have had your Thanksgiving meal planned out for a while. I also know, based on the traffic to the markets that I am not the only one who is not finished. Just in case you are still in process, or if you have misgivings about the offerings you’ve planned, I want to share some healthy fall harvest options that are perfect for the Thanksgiving table.

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

Did I get your attention, either because you live for pumpkin spice anything or because you can’t even stand to see the phrase anymore? The lovely thing about Thanksgiving is that it features another fall beauty that can replace pumpkin in most things and is also super versatile. If you’re looking to celebrate all day, and are willing to give the humble sweet potato a try, MindBodyGreen offers up a great all day roundup of sweet potato offerings here. I am admittedly particularly intrigued by the Mexican Chocolate Sweet Potato Pudding.

Thanksgiving Classics?

Meatless Monday has put together a list of great vegetable dishes for Thanksgiving. While I have to confess this list of “classics” never showed up on my table as a kid, many of them do look darned tasty – maybe a new spin on an old favorite would jazz things up a bit.

img_0352If you’re okay with twisting some classics or simply introducing new and fabulous autumnal masterpieces, give our list of Healthy Holiday Dishes (Thanksgiving Edition) a try. It also happens to include some healthy twists on classics that are sure to please your whole tribe.

Even if you’re all planned up and all my healthy advice is for naught, we can all use a few new spins for all that leftover food. I turn again to Meatless Monday for a list of new interpretations of Thanksgiving.

2013-05-08-17-12-09Sometimes our leftovers come in the form of ingredients that we thought we’d use because we thought we’d make enough pies for 3,000 people and had a flash of sanity before actually baking all those pies (a sure sign of advanced holiday zen mastery). It is conceivable at this time of year to find yourself with a whole lotta canned pumpkin. This list over at tries to help you with that… and features Bigg Sis’ fabulous cookies.

img_9171If you’ve got a strange mishmash of leftovers, you can always make a leftover pot pie.  This is a surprisingly easy and VERY popular transformation around here.

So there it is, tons of great seasonal options for you. Here’s hoping your holiday is what YOU want it to be. Traditions are great, and so is recognizing when they are no longer serving you. If you could plan the day without any input, what would you be most grateful for? We’ll be doing things a bit different this year as it has become clear that what we’d be most thankful for is a little quiet time and some rest. Well, rest and some mashed potatoes. ;-) Have a great holiday if you’re in the U.S., and if you’re elsewhere, please don’t be annoyed by our Facebook posts. Eat well, be well friends.


Pumpkin French Toast Bake

As if you need another pumpkin recipe….. but, wait!  You do need this pumpkin recipe because it is a breakfast recipe.  It is not easy to bring vegetables into breakfast in a culture that often considers breakfast to be the 12-hour-after-dinner dessert.  Seriously.  So…. this recipe seems a bit dessert-y but with the touch of sweetness coming from bananas and cinnamon.  Plus you get fiber, vitamin A, potassium and other nutrients coming your way via pumpkin.

It was my original attention to make this in the crock pot overnight.  But I forgot.  Ooops.  The crock pot is (unfortunately) not a magical pot into which you can put nothing and remove something yummy hours later.  However, it did not take long to throw this together, so being the early riser in my household, I threw it together in about 10 minutes and into the oven it went.  The sleepy heads still had to be awakened to enjoy this healthy treat.

Don’t get uptight about measuring – It’s merely a layering job that you then bake at 350 for 35 minutes or so.  I don’t mean to give you too vague a recipe, but the amounts of egg and milk you use is dependent on the thickness and heartiness of the bread, so you’ll have to just feel it out a little.  You want the bread to be a bit soaked so that the resultant dish will be moist, but not floating.

Pumpkin Banana French Toast Bake

Enough bread for 2 layers in a 9X13 baking dish – healthy bread would be ….. healthier ;-)
(I used ezekiel bread and it took 12 pieces)coconut oil (or your favorite oil to grease the baking dish
6 – 10 eggs
1/2 – 1 cups milk
1 – 2 tsp vanilla
about 1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 banana
Handful of walnuts
shredded un-sweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 350
Grease the baking dish
Beat together the eggs,
Add and mix in vanilla, pumpkin and milk
Lay the bread in a layer on the bottom of the dish
sprinkle walnuts, cinnamon, coconut and banana slices over the bread





Pour about half of the mixture over the bottom layer
Add another layer of bread
Sprinkle more coconut and/or walnuts if you like (I did coconut)
Pour the rest of the mixture over the bread.


Bake until firm (again, depends on amount of eggs/milk and heartiness of bread) .  20151115_080409

There may be banana juice bubbling up, so try to determine whether you are seeing banana juice or egg/pumpkin mixture looking wet.

This was very yummy and did not require any sweetener to make it wonderful.  The banana adds a lot, but you could try it without – or with raisins or dates….. or something else.  Let us know if you try something different!


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family!


Quinoa and Black Bean Stew

So I said this week that I was going to experiment with some new recipes since Mr. Little Sis was home. What I should have said was that I might even make him cook some of them. Wasn’t that nice of me? Hey sweetie, can you cook dinner while the kids and I are at violin? Great, here’s the recipe. We should have everything for it… Yeah, it was inspired. Good thing he’s a good sport.

So while I listened to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star played in about 5 rhythmic variations on a violin and viola, Mr. Little Sis dug in and did his best in a kitchen that is organized to someone else’s liking. I have to confess that it strikes me as unclear who got the short end of that stick. With a few texts about “we don’t have…” answered by “just use this with a little of that,”  Mr. Little Sis was off to the races.

The time estimate on this fantastic Quinoa and Black Bean Stew from Vegetarian Times is “under 30 minutes.” I think the estimate was pretty close given the aforementioned substitution advice via text and the “where does she keep the…” problem. The procedure was easy and the ingredients were not outlandish. We didn’t have fire roasted tomatoes so subbed out regular diced and added some smoked paprika. I admit that was genius, and it added just the right flavor. All of those fundamental flavors bubbling away with a smoky edge… coming home to this stuff already cooking was a heavenly moment for sure.

The stew is flavorful and interesting, even with a little less chili powder than called for (a concession to the children). The avocados added just the right amount of fat. And yes, you want the lime. It was so great little man requested leftovers in his lunch and ate every last piece of quinoa. As for Ms. Picky Pants? Well, you can’t win them all; she predictably did not care for the stew and that’s really all I can say about that. 75% approval around the table is an A- in this house, or at least a really strong B+. Given how much I personally enjoyed it and how I mourned the end of the leftovers, I have to say the non-super taster grade for this stew is an A.

Weekly Meal Plan 11/16-11/22

Hey there friends. Do you feel it coming? The holiday hoopla approacheth. There are plenty of great things about the holidays, but I’m the first to admit that I have been known to succumb to the pressure of over-scheduling, panicking about outcomes, and generally not enjoying myself very much during a time that’s supposed to be, at the heart of it, enjoyable. In discussing the increasing anticipation of this holiday onslaught, a delightful and helpful friend shared with me that she has begun doing her holidays exactly the way she wants. She is kind about it, but makes plans with people she wants to see, brings the food she wants to eat, and gives gifts she feels good about, buying them throughout the year when she sees something that inspires delight and seems to call out to a person she knows.

Hmmmm… this sounds like just the kind of advice I’ve laid out in the past, you know how our holiday traditions are our own, how we decide what celebration looks like, and that we have the power to change it. Apparently I can do this at other times of the year but the Thanksgivukkahmas season overpowers my will. This year I’m going to try to do something different. I don’t quite know what it is yet, but I’m gonna try to stay in my happy place, say no when I need to, and be REALLY present for the moments I say yes to. That’s my plan. You are welcome to it if it suits you.

With all that said, those holidays aren’t here yet, and it seems I need to be present in my kitchen for several days before then in order to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round. Mr. Little Sis’ travel schedule will be slowing down again, so I will, blessedly be able to experiment a little more in the kitchen again (ya gotta be able to count on one enthusiastic recipient), and who knows, maybe I’ll get my act together enough to tell you about it. This week’s experiments are all pulled from the November issue of Vegetarian Times.

Monday: Quinoa and Black Bean Stew from Vegetarian Times with Miso-Lime Sweet Potato Dip and chips, cut veggies

Tuesday: Sweet Potato Sushi Bowls from Vegetarian Times

Wednesday: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Whole Wheat Bread, Green salad

Thursday:  Nutshroom Burgers, sautéed green beans, green salad

Friday: homemade pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Sweet and Sour Lentils, Sprout Namul, cut veggies

Sunday: homemade pasta with mushroom sauce, sautéed greens, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops

Adult Lunches: Brussel Sprouts with Kimchi from Vegetarian Times

So that’s what we’re up to this week! I am going to walk my big furry baby in the sunshine and imagine holidays my way. Here’s hoping you have a little sun and at least one living creature near you that thinks you’re the berries. Eat well, be well friends.

The Beauty of the Pretty Good Dessert

Not the description you read in a restaurant menu.  “Please make a selection from our Pretty Good Dessert Cart,” ……… “Our Pretty Good Desserts are a perfect way to end your meal!”

What’s so good about a “Pretty Good Dessert”? It’s a perfect way to fill that little itch for dessert without being too indulgent, AND you don’t have this stuff sitting on table, or counter, or in the freezer which slowly disappears as passersby shave off a little more whenever they find the excuse to ‘pass by.’  I have that problem with pumpkin brownies, because although much healthier than the average brownie….. I can’t keep my hands off of them.

So to go along with the “Pretty Good” Chocolate Chia Pudding that I posted a few weeks ago, I share with you another Pretty Good dessert posted by Snack Girl.  I don’t think she will be insulted by my calling her desserts pretty good.  She is very level headed and I think would agree with the value of a pretty good dessert.

You have probably heard of mug cakes….. throw a few ingredients in a mug and get 1 serving of cake (which avoids the whole passer-by shaving entirely!!).  For some reason this idea has been stuck in my 14 year old’s considerably tenacious craw for some time.  So he was the perfect candidate to give a banana-based mug cake a try.  (Of course I didn’t advertise it that way, but he helped me, so the ingredients were indeed on the table.  And there aren’t many!)

Chocolate Banana Mug Cake

Not a chocolate mug – don’t eat the mug ;-)

This is fast and easy – and makes enough for 2 people


1 medium banana
1 egg
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar

Mash and squish and whisk all ingredients together.

Pour into 2 mugs



Microwave each mug by itself for 1 minute or until firm on top.  Mine was fine after 1 minute.



You can invert it onto a plate (it slid right out) or eat straight from the mug….. You could even make this tonight!  My son wanted to try this again, but not on the same night.  So while it might not knock your socks off,  it will be satisfying and tasty…… and enough.  And that’s Pretty Good!




Weekly Meal Plan 11/2-11/8/15

Well hello there everybody! We’ve made it over the first of the cool weather holiday hurdles! My kids came home when their candy collection units (CCUs) were too heavy to proceed. Smart Mr. Little Sis dictated the policy that if you want to even think about eating it, you gotta carry it. And so they returned with an insane haul and with the inevitable but thus far delayed conclusion that the buckets I bought them as toddlers have, in fact, become too small for their growing candy collection needs. I was hoping they wouldn’t think of that for another year.

They returned home and began the horse trading that marks a truly successful Halloween. I stood nearby, biting my tongue and only occasionally intervening when the swindle was too great to be tolerated.

Having thoroughly enjoyed their costumed candy beggary, now’s where things get really fun for one of my little people. Poor little man has oral surgery in the morning. Poor little man’s face is too small for all of poor little man’s teeth, so we’re in a very long process that I’m assured will result in a healthy and happy mouth full of teeth with which he will eat me out of house and home if he continues at the current rate. The impact of this particular saga on this week’s menu is that I’m reasonably certain that little man will have little to no interest in anything but soft food for a few days, so forgive me if part of the menu seems to lack a little in the texture department. Feel free to add nuts at your own discretion. :-)

Monday: Amazing Applesauce on Whole Wheat Sesame Pancakes, cooked carrots

Tuesday: Lentil, Mushroom and Sweet Potato Soup, wheat bread, green salad or green smoothies if it’s still painful for the boy

Wednesday: rice noodle Varia Bowls with Half Raw Stir Fry and cashews

Thursday: Curried Coconut Quinoa and Greens with Roasted Cauliflower

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Cooking Class for the Kids? An experiment we’re toying with.

Sunday: Homemade Pasta

Lunchbox Treats: Halloween candy will be enjoyed this week, in their lunch, and yes I realize that is unkind to the teacher.

Adult Lunches: Creamy Slow Cooker Tomato Soup


So that’ what we’ll be gumming for dinner down here. I hope all of your meals are toothsome. Eat well, be well friends!

Re-fried Bean Citrus Lettuce Wraps

I have never been a big fan of meat.  Our mother used to stop me at the door to make sure that I had placed some lunch meat on my sandwich for school (and not just mayonnaise).  So it’s not a big surprise that I am the one that keeps the meat consumption to a minimum in our household.

My boys are not as enthusiastic about keeping the meat consumption low.  So there are some nights when they eat meat and I do not.  They used to fulfill this need when I was working 12 hour shifts and wasn’t even home for dinner a few nights a week, but now we eat together every night, so the blending creates some confusion and ‘togetherness’ in the kitchen as all needs are met.

Recently, I didn’t plan well,…. okay at least once a week or so, I don’t plan well and needing a quick healthy protein substitute for me while the boys ate turkey, I turned to canned beans, sweet onion and a little orange juice.  I was very pleased with the results which I piled into a large leaf of romaine and ate like a burrito.  I was very pleased with the results.  The boys looked suspicious at my lack of interest in their turkey bacon.  Haha!  Their suspicions will be explained soon because I know we will have this again.  Why not?  It is fairly quick, very easy and most delicious.

Re-fried Bean Citrus Wraps

1 sweet onion
oil for sauteeing
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup canneloni beans (or whatever cooked or canned beans you have on hand)
juice of 1 orange
salt to taste

Saute the onions in a little oil.  The longer you saute the sweeter they become… but if you’re pressed for time go until translucent
Add the rest of the ingredientsMash the beans.  I used a potato masher.
Cook down a little so it’s all smushey and the liquid has diminished.
If it gets too dry add a little more juice

20151025_184411Serve on a romaine lettuce leaf….. or on a tortilla…. or on a piece of bread….. or mixed with rice

This is a notion that works for a lot of things and saves you lots of calories.  Unless of course you serve it with potatoes roasted in oil.  Ah but they were really good as well ;-)

What do you like to put in a lettuce wrap?

Weekly Meal Plan 10/26-11/1

The Halloween countdown is on. At breakfast, at dinner, at random intervals for no apparent reason during the day. I know at any given moment exactly how long it is before my kids get to wear their costumes (one of their costumes) to school. One of their costumes, you say? Are they going to change mid- beggary like a bride at the reception? Who bothers with two costumes? Well, I’ll tell you. For some reason, our elementary school has decided not to celebrate Halloween. Fine, whatever, I really don’t care. BUT they are having fall parties on the last day before Halloween and for that day the kids can wear a costume of their favorite book character…. So they’re going to dress up and eat snacks with orange colored plates and jack-o-lantern decorations. But it’s not Halloween. Is it me?

But you’re wondering why the two costumes… because when asked what they’d really like to be, and I remind them that this is their big chance to dress up as anything they want, only one of my two ever picks a book character. And I’m not going to make them do it just because their school can’t admit that they are celebrating Halloween. Harrrummph.

So that’s what we’re up to this week. Mr. Little Sis is on the West Coast, so we’re all sticking our tongues out at him while we enjoy our beautiful fall foliage. Full days, kid friendly dinners, and the smell of leaves and fireplaces.

Monday: Whole Wheat Pasta with Creamy Walnut Pesto, green salad

Tuesday: Lentil Casserole, cut veggies, green salad

Wednesday: Potato Squashers, green peas, steamed broccoli

Thursday: Mulligatawny Soup, whole wheat bread, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Roasted Vegetable Chili, corn bread, green salad

Sunday: Homemade pasta with mushroom sauce, sautéed green beans, green salad

Adult Lunches: With Mr. LIttle Sis gone, I confess to a nearly obsessive relationship with lunchtime hummus. We have LOTS of those here. This page is a nice start.

Lunchbox Treats: Yeah, I’m not baking. I have found some nut bar type deals that have minimal ingredients and are low in sugar, so those will be happening at least twice.

Here’s hoping your days are filled with fall colors and smells and that you’re celebrating something, even if you don’t call it Halloween. Eat well, be well friends.

Chocolate Chia Pudding – Dairy Free

This is going to be kind of a sales manager’s nightmare….
Imagine you are the trainer for a bunch of sales people for chocolate chia pudding.  You’ve taught them all about using tantalizing language; about setting a mood; about convincing the buyer that they deserve to have a treat…..

Mmmmm. Looks creamy and delicious!

Mmmmm. Looks creamy and delicious!

Now imagine that you hear this phrase come out of the mouth of one of your salesmen.

“It’s pretty good.  Yeah, we enjoyed it, it was okay.”

What?  How the heck to you propose to get people to buy this stuff, or in this case try this recipe?  Well, I like to think of this as a “this is better than fruit” kind of dessert.  Now don’t get me wrong…. I love fruit and when there are lovely grapes, raspberries, pineapple or mango around, it makes a lovely after meal treat.

However, my brain AND my son, are products of our culture that clearly states that fruit is NOT dessert.  Fruit is healthy.  Dessert is decadent, rich, super sweet, indulgent, much-deserved and really, again, NOT FRUIT.  A recipe like this one, a less unhealthy but also less decadent, less rich, not so super sweet, less indulgent though equally, if not more so deserved…. fills the dessert bill that both my son AND my brain seem convinced makes the evening better.

So, I give you a recipe totally borrowed from Snack Girl, a biologist who blogs about healthy eating.  It was pretty good.  Yeah, we enjoyed it, it was okay.  I add this to some other recipes that are good enough to enjoy and not too bad health wise, but not SO good that we eat too much of it and further that notion that only a decadent, overly sweet treat constitutes a tasty end to the evening meal.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Makes 4 – ¼ cup puddings

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar (I used white sugar – a little shy of this amount)
¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup milk (whatever you like – she used 2% cow’s milk, I used plain almond milk)

Blend cocoa powder, sugar, chia seeds, and milk in a blender for 5 minutes until chia seeds are pulverized. Pour into small ramekins and place in refrigerator.  I used a Vita-Mix and Snack Girl commented that hers turned out a little grainy in her regular blender…… but that’s okay.  It’s still pretty good ;-)

Chill for 30-60 minutes and enjoy, but not too too much!  We ate it all!



Weekly Meal Plan 10/19-10/25

Well hello there! We woke up to frozen grass and frosty windows. Seems it’s that time. We’ve still got some warmish days in front of us, but we’ve definitely moved into pumpkin spice everything season. I’ve had a little luck getting my myriad activities under control, although it required that I make a visual aid for a typical week so I could see that it could all actually fit provided I don’t say yes to anything else, ever. So that’s the current stance. If you had planned to ask me for something, you should know that. ;-) While I practice saying no, we will be eating some delicious food.

Monday: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, Wheat Bread, green salad

Tuesday: African Lentil Casserole, sautéed green beans, green salad

Wednesday: Roasted Cauliflower Wraps, oven fries, cut veggies

Thursday: Half Raw Stir Fry on Crispy Rice

Friday: Homemade Pizza – It occurs to me I’ve never really described this for you…

Saturday: Dinner Out!

Sunday: Homemade Spinach Pasta with Mushroom Sauce, green salad

Adult Lunches: leftover tomato soup from last week

Lunchbox Treats: low sugar graham crackers

One of my unscheduled tasks today is to dig through the winter boxes and get out some gloves for all those who walk to the bus stop. Hope you know where your gloves are… looks like we’re gonna need them!