Peppers Stuffed w/ Healthy Yum

Colored peppers make me smile.  Bright colors, shiny skin, green hat…. then after I kill it ;-)  they are juicy, crisp and flavorful.  Great raw, sauteed, broiled, roasted, just get them in the mouth!  My grocery store sends me coupons and recipes that require the ingredients for which they sent me coupons.  Clever, right?  Of course I don’t eat 50% of what they list as ingredients, but hey – 50% positive match is a start!  In this case the grocery store missive brought a recipe for Orzo stuffed peppers.  Sounds good, now how to adapt for my GF hubby, my picky son, and my preference to be meatless most of the time…..

Enter some old standbys and an inspiration from our good friend Annie at ‘anunrefinedvegan.com‘   She cleverly used pulsed chickpeas to add some texture and protein to spaghetti sauce.  I took that idea and added walnuts, quinoa and spices to make a mixture for pepper stuffing with an aim at a sausage-y kind of flavor.

You could easily change the flavor profile in this by switching out some spices, just give whatever you try a taste before stuffing, make changes and voila you are now the recipe creator :-)

Peppers Stuffed with Yum

1 1/2 c cooked quinoa
3 large bell peppers, topped and seeded to be like cups
1/2 c cooked chickpeas (rinsed if you used canned)
1/2 c walnuts
Oil for saute (I used avocado)
1/2 c chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sage
3/4tsp. smoked paprika
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp dried parsley-2 of fresh
Diced tomatoes – I used canned fire roasted

Pre-heat oven to 350
Cook quinoa in vegetable broth
Prepare peppers
Place chickpeas and walnuts in bowl of food processor and pulse until mixture is broken down but not much – leave some texture
Saute onions and garlic in pan large enough to accommodate all ingredients until translucent
Add spices and cook for another minutes or so, stirring
Add chickpeas and walnuts to heat
Add a little water if it seems too dry
Turn off heat and add parsley and cooked quinoa
Grease a pan that will enable your peppers to stand upright (I used coconut oil)
Spoon mixture into peppers until almost full

20150321_164203Add a layer of diced tomatoes to each pepper
Cook 30 – 45 minutes or until Peppers reach desired tenderness.

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Serve with vegan parmesan (my preference)

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or plain – both my boys liked it just fine plain.

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This was a 100% hit.  I wish I’d made more than one apiece!  Next time this is a recipe doubler or tripler for sure. And again – you could switch out the spices for oregano, basil & thyme…. or chili powder, cumin and cayenne…. whatever works for your tribe!

I was left with lots of extra quinoa because I always make extra grains.  We shall see if Little Sis offers some ideas that include quinoa in the weekly meal plan (which I selfishly steal on a regular basis).  If not, it is so easy to throw together some quinoa, some veggies and a favorite sauce for an easy weeknight meal.

Eat well. Be well.  And if you want some help on the journey to healthful eating, check out Baby Steps to Better Health.

Weekly Meal Plan 3/23-3/29

Another weekend behind us and 5 days of grind to get to the next one, but the next one has a date night in it!!! Wahootie! Mr. Little Sis and I will actually be leaving our house without our children and our beloved sitter (who is a kindergarten teacher, and yes that’s perfect and no, you can’t have her) will be entertaining the dynamic duo. We intend to eat something somewhere and then going to a singer songwriter coffeehouse. Perfecto. Spring is springing and now I am too.

Monday: Not Just Kramer’s Mulligatawny Soup, Homemade Whole Wheat Bread, green salad

Tuesday: Nofredo Orzo, roasted cauliflower, cut veggies

Wednesday: Lentil Bulgur Burgers, Oven Fries, green salad

Thursday: Oven Cooked Asparagus with quinoa and Mung Bean Sprout Namul (Spring has Sprung!!)

Friday: Homemade Pizza

Saturday: Date Night – That’s right I said DATE NIGHT!

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Lemon Jots

Adult Lunches: big giant salads with sauerkraut and miso dressing – don’t judge, it’s awesome

  

Here’s hoping Spring has really sprung where you are. Today was the first day our resident woodpeckers passed up the bird feeders in favor of pecking on actual trees, I imagine in search of actual bugs and stuff rather than seeds. I miss watching them – they are really cool, but I take as a sign that all is right in the world that they don’t need us anymore. Have a great week friends. Eat well, be well!

Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes – So Simple, So Good

The other day when I entered the kitchen to attempt to follow my meal plan for the week, I discovered that despite all my careful planning, I was missing a key ingredient for the dish I planned to make. What’s a Mom of hungry children to do? Divert from the plan is the only answer, but the question is what level of diversion. Rather than coming up with a whole new game plan, I decided to simply make some changes to the recipe based on the ingredients I DID actually have on hand. This is a common strategy on my part, and has nearly always resulted in some level of success. My success at making these change ups is likely because i don’t just replace the missing item with any old thing.( Read here for my suggestions on adapting, changing, and experimenting with recipes in ways that are more likely to create a successful outcome.)

On this particular occasion I was short the chickpeas required to make Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes according to Deborah Madison’s recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (see my thoughts on Deborah Madison). I know, I know – me out of chickpeas, it’s almost too much to believe, but I tried not to linger on that ridiculous reality and moved quickly to surveying what I DID have available. And what I DID have was some already cooked lentils (always cook extra of staples – see here for why). Yay! I pulled the lentils out as well as the other ingredients and got down to business. It occurred to me that while the lentils were going to play the same nutritional role as the chickpeas (protein, fiber), they are so radically different in size and texture I supposed there may be some consequences for the switch. But I proceeded and just sort of kept my eyes open for things that needed tweaking.

As it turned out, the lentils did give the dish a very different flavor and overall feel. They also seems to take up some of the liquid from the dish, even though they were already cooked, I added to the tomatoes called for in the original recipe and then added some extra seasoning to make up for the additional volume. It was a delicious dish and scored a 75% percent approval rating in our house, Ms. Picky Pants was, not surprisingly, not a fan. I was a simple dish with delicious flavors and while it was nice and warming on a chilly day, I’m told it can also be served cold with lemon wedges and black olives. I have some ideas for summer!

Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes – inspired by Deborah Madison’s Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Tomatoes in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • Olive oil for the pan
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, peeled and diced (I went slightly larger than a dice and used the three small russets I had on hand – I also didn’t peel them, I know I’m bad)
  • 2 carrots cut into small rounds (less than 1/2 and inch so they cook in a reasonable amount of time)
  • a pinch to 1/2 t chili powder or smoked paprika, depending on your heat preferences
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 1/2 c diced tomatoes (I used cans and did not drain them)
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I used French as that’s what was in the fridge waiting to be used)
  • 1/2 c raw cashews (or 1/2 c more beans)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c water (or enough to make a broth to simmer in)
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 c chopped parsley

Warm oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until onions are beginning to color – 5 to 10 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, chili, and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to simmer. Simmer until veggies are tender. About 25-30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Stir in fresh herbs and cashews if using.

  

We served ours with lemon wedges and quinoa. Absolutely delish!

Garlic Powder, Walnuts, and Boxed Mac N Cheese Recalled

NewsUpdate6Hey friends. I haven’t really been on top of these lately, so I apologize if I am your sole source of food safety news. There are many sources of this kind of information out there, including this one, which allows you sign up for notices. I strongly recommend that you find a way to check this info periodically. I have discovered that two of the markets that I use regularly actually contact you in the event of a recall, but in both cases I had already heard about it from FoodSafetyNews and in one of the two cases was able to avoid eating the product altogether because I’d heard about it early enough. Listen, I’m not suggesting you live in fear. I’m suggesting that having access to information about your food is a good thing. So here’s the dealio…

Garlic Powder: Natural Grocers recalls all organic garlic powder for potential salmonella. Walnuts: Wegman’s recalls organic walnut halves and pieces for potential salmonella.

What about the boxed Mac n Cheese? Salmonella – a bacterium associated with food poisoning and other digestive woes? Listeria – a bacteria commonly associated with processed foods? No, friends. Certain lots of mac n cheese may contain metal pieces. Metal pieces. Like, pieces of metal. Not part of the natural world at all, dirty or clean. Do yourself a favor, replace that expensive not very nutritious box of potentially metallically infused macaroni and cheese with our Instantly Healthier Mac N Cheese. Or, if you want a dairy free version, try these Zucheesey Noodles. You don’t need that stinkin’ box.

Weekly Meal Plan 3/16-3/22

My sister’s here! My sister’s here! Bigg Sis is visiting the region for a whole mess of reasons, and we get to spend some time together. Yay! We can actually cook and eat together instead of just looking at each other’s pictures! Yay! That’s the biggest thing going in our house this week. School seems to have become routine again with the snow subsiding and order has been restored, at least for now. I am obliged to provide some manner of St. Patrick’s festivities tomorrow for my holiday loving daughter, and I’ve got a whole mess of longtime on the list home improvements I should probably tackle before the spongy mud turns into actual soil out in the garden and I am able to once again ignore the inside of the house in favor of the outside (I do love that switch). Our weather looks like it’s going to be all over the map this week, so our meals will not reflect my usual climate calculations for warm and comforting or crunchy and cooling. We’re just gonna roll with what works and hope for the best!

Monday: Lentil Casserole, green beans, salad (a great choice for nights when the kids have an activity – tonight Ms. Picky Pants has dance class)

Tuesday: Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes (from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

Wednesday: Varia-Bowls with rice noodles (in anticipation of perhaps feeding Bigg Sis’ gluten free crew)

Thursday: Anything Goes Fast Burritos

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Picadillo over roasted potatoes, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Spinach Pasta with Pesto, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: We are still playing with raw soups made in the Vita-Mix – more to come on that.

Even though it’s still chilly and mornings are downright cold, the signs of Spring’s approach are all around. So I give a little yay for Spring. Here’s hoping your week looks interesting and delish!

 

 

Celebrating St. Patrick Baby Steps Style

In case you missed it, St. Patrick’s Day is coming. I know this because my Facebook feed is full of preparations. I haven’t even dared to open Pinterest lately for fear of green splatter rolling off the screen and onto my sweater. It seems like people are a little extra excited about St. Patrick’s Day this year, Irish or no. I can’t say I blame them. Those of us in the perpetual snow belt this winter are ready for a little green. But is St. Patrick’s Day really that big a deal? Do I have to make sugar cookies (let’s face it, they’re a huge pain in the patootie)?!

In case you don’t know, St. Patrick’s Day began as a celebration of St. Patrick, who legend holds was largely responsible for bringing Catholicism to Ireland (that’s what was meant by driving the snakes out, and that’s all I’m gonna say about THAT). Over time, as so often is the case in a world full of people who are ready to celebrate something, St. Patrick’s Day has come to be a celebration of all things Irish, of leprechauns (magic and luck), and of green food (beer). So I guess we get to the sugar cookies by way of the green food thing and if you make them in the shape of clovers you get to cover all those bases. Personally, I’m not Irish, but I can get down with some Irish music, and if celebrating St. Patrick’s Day will bring a little joy into the slowly melting landscape, I’m all for it, but I’m not making sugar cookies (yes, I am that mean and that stubborn). My daughter has already asked what we’re doing for St. Patrick’s Day. In her mind, we must have a plan for all of these holidays.

So I’m thinking about a few courses of action, because honestly I could use a little celebration pick me up as well. Our Baby Steps styled St. Patricks Day may include Irish cultural fun, “going green” activities, and LOTS of green food (insert evil nutritious laugh here). For the cultural part I figure we’ll listen to Irish music all day. I have some traditional stuff that I bought years ago and if we get weary of that, there’s always Pandora – pretty sure they’ll be rockin’ the Irish and Celtic playlists that day. We’ll also learn about the history of the day, because I used to teach history and I’m annoying that way.

We’ll wear some green, but I also thought maybe we’d go a little greener. We’ll plant some seeds, maybe including some clover to be fun. We’ll recycle some trash into treasures (they made robots with cans, serious re-users my kids are). Perhaps we’ll pull out the fairy houses we started working on in the fall and see if we can’t incorporate our recycled treasures there.

And then there’s the food… could there be a holiday that’s more of a food whack Mom’s dream than St. Patrick’s Day? Mercy no don’t make cupcakes and color them green with food coloring. Prepare food that is naturally green and maximize that holiday participation advantage. They’ll do anything to celebrate a holiday, right? You don’t need no stinking food coloring (see why here). You’ve got green food. In case you think I’m nuts, I’ll give you a list of links. This is one of those moments when it’s all the marketing, especially if you have little ones. Talk about leprechauns, talk about clover, talk about everything green and then put it in your mouth. Yum.

Real Green Dishes – No Food Coloring Required

  

 

1. St. Patrick’s Smoothie – Easy, delicious, nutritious and a winner with all ages. You don’t need a shamrock shake. We’ve got more than one of these. Search on “green smoothie” if you want some other options. What a great way to say “Top ‘O the Mornin.'”

2. Roasted Cabbage – Green and traditional. Works for us!

3. Kale Salad – Pretty amazingly green, right?

  

4. Broccoli and Snap Pea Varia-Bowl – so many delicious green, springy, lucky veggies.

5. Company Good Pea Soup –  So easy, so yummy, and so very very green.

6. Simple, Not Plain Green Beans – Includes advice on getting little people to eat them. ;-)

  

7. Herbed Zucchini Rice – This one’s green AND really fast.

8. Zucchini Noodles – Serve with some pesto and you’ve got a super green delish dish!

9. Broccoli Neatballs – These little suckers are so flexible. Eat them with everything.

  

10. Non-Dairy Creamed Kale – Don’t mind the nutcracker. I swear he’s not looking at you…

11. Food Hangover Kale Smoothie In case green beer is a part of your St. Pat’s requirements, this might work wonders for the adults. Kids love it. What a great way to end a green celebration!

12. Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies – If you do have the baking urge, why not make these truly green cookies. We love them!

There you have it folks – 12 ideas for green food to celebrate whatever part of St. Patrick’s Day rings your bells. Hope you and yours are finding plenty of nourishment and magic as the seasons begin to turn.

Weekly Meal Plan 3/9-3/15

Well, it’s happened. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that was the last snowfall for the winter, because honestly if it wasn’t I may lose my mind altogether. Today it got up to 60 degrees. I have tomatoes, chard and cauliflower sprouting in little trays in the front room. Sure signs that Spring is on the way abound. And before we’ve even gotten warm enough for things to change, my cravings are shifting. I want veggies, lots of them, raw if possible. Some sort of internal signal is telling me it’s time to look at that plate again, check the balance, check the quantity, start moving away from the comfort food and towards lighter fare. This meal plan is admittedly only slightly lighter than those that have preceded it, but we’re gong to do some fiddling around with raw veggie soups for lunch and see if we can’t answer the internal cry for eggiest in an interesting way. Hope Spring is sending you signs of its arrival!

Monday: Shepherd’s Pizza, green salad

Tuesday: BiBimBap  (minus the eggs) on crispy rice with lots of cut raw veggies

Wednesday: Nutshroom Burgers, Roasted Cabbage, green salad

Thursday: Lentil Kima and quinoa, steamed broccoli

Friday: Homemade Pizza (yes, they will have 2 pizza type dishes in a week with NO problem), cut raw veggies

Saturday: Fancy Pants Quinoa Polenta, broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Adult Lunches: We are experimenting with raw veggie soups this week – I’ll let you know if there’s anything stellar to report.

  

I can taste those raw veggies now – how about you? What’s on your plate this week?

Shepherd’s Pizza (Potato Crust-ish Tasty Thing)

I was going to leave the title as just ‘Shepherd’s Pizza’ thinking it might intrigue millions, or thousands of readers into opening this post.  Then I thought perhaps I’d better offer just a little explanation, or maybe nobody would read it except for my mother.

So now that you are here…. you are still perhaps wanting a little more explanation?  This started as an attempt on my part to create a pizza crust out of potatoes (and a few other things).  Well, it did not turn out to be something that you could pick up.  More specifically, not pick up and take a bite that was several inches away from where you were holding it.  You could pick this food up in your hands if you are so moved, however…. it won’t be pretty.

“Alas, failure! I signed.”  Then my son said, “You should make this more often Mom!”

Ho ho!  Music to my ears on getting healthy food into my people!  I saw beyond failure and into the land of opportunity where lies the naming of something weird and different than what was expected.  What to name this soft layer of potato-y goodness topped with pizza stuff.  Upside down Italian Shepherd’s Pie came to mind.  The Italian word for shepherd is pastore by the way ;-)

So, I would be happy to share Pastore Potato Pizza with you!

Pastore Potato Pizza
2 qts chopped and boiled red potatoes.  (I left the skins on)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup cashews that have been soaked in 1 cup water for at least 6 hours and then drained.
1 – 2 Tbsp milk of choice
3 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp salt

Pizza toppings or any roasted vegetables or cheeses that you like

– Pre-heat oven to 375
– Boil the potatoes until very tender and drain
– Drain the cashews and blend or process with the yeast flakes, milk and olive oil until fairly creamy.
(The milk is purely to get this mixture to mash, so start with just a little and see if you need more.)
– Place everything, including the blender goo in a large bowl and mash away.

20150304_162121See the chia seeds hiding in the potato cave? And the cashew lava creeping down the mountain?  Okay, so the imagination thing can be a problem for me ;-)

– Place parchment paper on a pan or two and spread a layer about 1/4 -1/2 inch thick on the parchment paper.
– Bake for 20 – 30 minutes.  I left one in for 20 and one in for 25.  Neither burned but the one in longer started to get a little puffy.  It might be good to leave them in longer but I don’t think they will ever get dry enough to be crusty and I didn’t notice much difference at the end either.
– Top with your choice of stuff and pop back in to heat up the toppings.  I did not put raw veggies on top as I was afraid the sweating of those veggies would make the whole thing too soupy.

We topped one with leftover spaghetti sauce that had colored peppers in it plus vegan parmesan
The other I brushed with olive oil, sprinkled on slightly steamed broccoli, green olives and vegan parmesan.  Of course my son wouldn’t touch this one, but it was my favorite.

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A switch from flour or grain based dishes.  Some favorite flavors.  Overall a failed crust with a happy ending!

Thinking of planting potatoes this year?  Little Sis has had luck with this method.

Other potato dishes?  We’ve got ‘em…..
GF veggie burger/potato cake
Tabil Spiced Chili Over Roasted Red Potatoes
Not Your Mother’s Warm Potato Salad w/ Miso Dressing
Lemon-Oregano Chicken & Potatoes
Leftover Mashed Potato Soup

Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes

Magic Dairy Free Sauce and Gravy: It’s All About the Roux

Mr. Little Sis is a sauce guy. He likes everything better with sauce on it, gravy, something. It’s never really been a requirement for me, but I have learned to appreciate the additional flavor and the warm yum that a good sauce can provide. Because we’ve had a relatively long and unpleasant winter, warm yum has become pretty important to me. And so I’ve been doing some thinking about creamy dishes and how best to maximize that creamy warm yum.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a mushroom stroganoff from
The Engine 2 Diet:. It was truly delicious, but the sauce was a little less smooth and creamy than it could have been. Okay, it was a little lumpy, like everyone says gravy can be. Having only experienced gravy from master gravy makers, I had never understood the lumpy gravy concern. When I made this dish, I got it. It wasn’t catastrophic. We still enjoyed the dish immensely, but it would have been better without the lumps.

I got the opportunity to think this whole lump problem through last week when making some leftover pot pies. We had leftover lentil casserole, some wild rice, and some peas. I layered them into a baking dish (rather than my big pie plate as the leftovers weren’t plentiful enough for the pie plate). I had this vision of the perfect leftover pot pie in my mind. Where you break through the pie crust and broth/gravy begins bubbling up. I sautéed some onions and mushrooms, heavily dosed them with thyme. I then removed the mushrooms
and onions from the pan and put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the pan with the remnant bits of sautéed onion and thyme. I then added a few tablespoons of white wheat flour and stirred it into the oil. I left it on medium low heat, and stirred the paste around a bit and let it brown. Letting it brown allows the raw flour taste to cook off. This paste is called a roux (roo) and it is the foundation of yum in many dishes.
When my roux had browned a bit, I added 2 cups of veggie broth and whisked the paste and broth together. I then left it on the heat and whisked frequently until satisfied with incorporation of the roux. I left the heat on and let it cook down a bit, whisking whenever separation appeared. After a few minutes know what I had? The perfect thick gravy like broth to pour over the ingredients of my leftover pot pie. And that’s just what I did. Topped it with a savory pie crust, baked it, and magic. We enjoyed our leftover pot pies with sautéed green beans and a green salad. Fantastic transformation of leftovers and a deliciously warming meal, with nary a lump in that creamy gravy broth. Every time you wish you had gravy or a creamy sauce, you can have magic too. Just vary the seasonings and the liquid you add according to the flavor you’re going for. Check this out if you want to become a roux expert.

As watch the snow come down in Mid-Maryland, I am reminded of a dish favored in the diner in my college town: gravy fries. Yeah, that’s what this snow storm needs, gravy fries. Here’s hoping you either have warmth and sunshine or just enough flour and olive oil to make your own leftover pot pie and gravy fries. Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 3/2-3/8

So, my kids are off from school… again… No we don’t want to play in the snow. No, it’s not a winter wonderland. It’s an icy school canceling mess. I can only begin to imagine how folks are faring north of us. I, for one, have had enough of winter. Uncle. We admit defeat. Go away. I don’t even need it to be extra warm or sunny, just stop sending frozen bits of crap to the ground. Thank you. Oh, yeah, and here’s the meal plan.

Monday: Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup and Kale, Lemon, and Cilantro Sandwiches (from The Engine 2 Diet, and yes we had this soup pretty recently but it was so popular and the weather is so lousy I think it deserves a replay)

Tuesday: Zucheesy Noodles, Roasted Cabbage, green salad

Wednesday: Vegetable Tempura with Orange Lemongrass Dipping Sauce and Jicama Rice (from Ani’s Raw Food Asia)

Thursday: Mung Bean Stew (the forecast dictates yet another stew day, and no, I don’t want to talk about that), No Fear Homemade Whole Wheat Bread, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Birthday Party for a Friend (Yay!)

Sunday: Homemade Pasta w/Pesto, green salad

Lunchbox Treat: Three Ingredient Almond Butter Cookies (I’ll share if this goes well)

Adult Lunches: leftover soup and leftover Slow Cooker Black Bean, Barley and Corn Burritos

 

After I get that tomato soup going, I think the only reasonable thing to do is to plant some seeds to sprout inside in an attempt to remind myself that this is, in fact, a seasonal situation. Here’s hoping the ice dams in your gutters have melted and that your bellies are full of veggies and love. Eat well, be well friends.