Cranberry Apple Pecan Crunch

I love apples.  I love apples in the morning. I love apples at night.  I love apples all the time.  For our Thanksgiving feast, one of my mothers very kindly provided a sweet potato pie.  I decided that it is just weird to limit yourself to one dessert on Thanksgiving (yes, I said that), and so I used my favorite fall fruit to create a perfect partner for the dessert plate. Continue reading

Morning Veggies

I am frequently reminded (in documentaries about other places that my son loves) that much of the rest of the world actually eats a breakfast that looks a lot like the other meals of the day – some kind of grain and some veggies, maybe a little protein, maybe not. And yet these sweet loving taste buds lead so many of  us to constantly seek out a breakfast that does a great job in satisfying a sweet tooth, but doesn’t necessarily do much else.  Despite all my sugar busting, I confess that my own flavor preferences in the morning tend toward the sweet side of the spectrum.

While on the morning in question, I wasn’t necessarily interested in simply having leftovers for breakfast (although this is an entirely reasonable proposition), it occurred to me that I had no good reason for not including vegetables in my morning repast. Vegetables CAN be in a dish that’s not primarily savory. I took my lead from my sister (yet again 😉 ) and just turned up the volume.

The result? Very slightly sweet, super satisfying, nutritionally superb and a definite keeper.

Veggies ‘N’ Oats IMG_0330

  • bowl of oatmeal & leftover sweet potatoes (cooked to your preference; I like my oats decidedly underdone)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped and cooked with the oats
  • handful of fresh spinach or other mild green, chopped
  • palmful of raisins
  • sprinkle of grated coconut
  • handful of walnuts
  • splash of coconut milk (or your preference)

I thought the celery and greens would interfere, but truth is they were absolutely delightful.  And I don’t care who you are, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with sweet potatoes for breakfast.  Okay, so I haven’t shaken the sweet tooth just yet, but things are definitely looking up. Throw some greens in there – you just might be surprised. Delish!

We’re Nuts About Nuts and Now the Scientists are Too!

If you’ve been keyed into the news this week, you’ve come face to face with the health revelation that Big Sis has been waiting for the data to come in on… It would seem that nuts are not just yummy, but have now been found in a series of highly touted studies to be good for you in VERY specific ways. Want to avoid Type 2 Diabetes? Nuts. Want to live longer? Nuts. Avoid cancer and heart disease? Nuts.

I can’t honestly say I’m surprised, but I also admit to a bit of a thrill when the science proves what some of my crunchiest pals have been telling me for years. A good diet includes those crunchy protein packed shelled nuggets. Well, okay. So I’ll just start buying a little bag of roasted, salted… oh hey, here’s some honey roasted, sea salted nuts with little bits of dried expensive magic in the package. A bargain at 2.99 for 2 ounces!! Surely you know what I’m going to say next.

If you let them decide how you’re going to eat your nuts, you’ll be paying a whole lot for them, and more often than not the preparations they choose (and by them I’m referring generally to food industry folks with the ready acknowledgement that there are exceptions who do not deserve the derision implied here) will be laden with junk that will counteract the very health effects you’re looking for. If you’re going to get dark chocolate covered nuts, however, I have nothing bad to say about that, and yes that probably makes me a hypocrite. I digress…

We here at the pantry are huge nut fans, both of us purchasing in bulk and using them most often with little preparation or mixed in with other foods to add a delightful, and healthful crunch. In light of these recent revelations, I thought I’d give you a little rundown of our favorite ways to enjoy nuts…

Breakfast
 

1. Warm Bowl of Yumfeatures ground walnuts with quinoa and oats. Creamy, dreamy, and oh so satisfying.

2. Momma’s Multigrain Thanksgiving Pancakesall the seasonal flavors cooked right in – including those fabulously health giving pecans.

3. Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancaked with Maple Cashew Butter – for those who aren’t really into all that crunch first thing and just want a mouth full of decadent yummy – this maple cashew butter will rock your breakfast world – pancakes, toast, a spoon, it’s all good.

Snacks

 

1. Roasted Chili Lime Nuts – whether you’re watching the game, or hiding in the laundry room so you don’t have to share (wait, did I say that out loud…), these nuts will set your snacky heart on fire (especially if you bump up the chili ;-).

2. Easy Chocolate Almond Butter – on a cracker, on an apple, on toast, on your finger, detoxing almonds and chocolate. Do I really have to say more?

Lunch/Dinner

1. Creamy Walnut Pesto – on some pasta, on some rice, on baguette it’s oh so nice..

2. Nutshroom Neatballs – these little beauties, and the burgers they are based on, turn nuts and grains into a meal even a meat lover would gladly enjoy.

3. Waldorf Saute – put those great fall apples to work for dinner with some walnuts. Delish.

Dessert

1. Walnut Crust Apple Pieuse those healthful buggers to make your next pie crust – a healthier holiday awaits.

2. Almond Joy Brownies – enjoy your almonds with some coconut butter and sweet potato brownie – you won’t be sorry.

3. Almond Lemon Jotsbake the healthy right in with these gluten free beauties.

So there you go – a handful of ways to get a handful of nuts, and live a longer, healthier life. Delish!

30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili

We finally made it through the fall crud.  This tenacious little virus swept its way through all four of us, Mr. Little Sis being the final victim.  I was long done with soup, but he still needed a little respiratory assistance.  Mr. Little Sis’ favorite form of respiratory assistance is spicy. And so, I whipped up some lunch (to avoid sharing with the ungrateful spicy-hating children) to give him a leg up. 30 minute bean and bulgur chili made a quick, spicy, and satisfying lunch for both of us.

Bean and bulgur you say? Those who’ve been playing along with us for a while will be familiar with the bean and bulgur combo, but if you’re new, check out this earlier post. The short version is that beans and bulgur together make a cheap, easy, and tasty substitute in a lot of recipes that traditionally use ground meat. I’ve found that making up a batch of bean and bulgur allows me to use it in a couple of dishes in the same week  with tasty and speedy results.  This chili was the second bean and bulgur dish of the week, after these burgers, so admittedly the 30 minutes does not include cooking the lentils and bulgur.  You could, however, use any bean and grain combo successfully – leftover rice and canned pintos? Great! This recipe is very forgiving and you should, as always, feel free to tweak according to your preferences and the ingredients you have on hand.

30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili

  • olive oil for the pot/panIMG_0323
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 c lentil/bulgur mixture
  • 1/4 t ground sage
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 can drained and rinsed black beans (or 1 1/2 c soaked and cooked)
  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t chipotle chili powder
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t oregano

Warm olive oil in skillet over medium.  Add lentil bulgur mixture to skillet and LET IT SIT.  You are going for a little browning and crisping here.  If you stir too much, you will get neither. Check after you’ve given it a few minutes, add sage and 1/4 t salt to lentil/bulgur,  then stir/flip to brown the other sides. Warm olive oil in large pot.  Add chopped onions and saute until onions have softened and become a bit translucent.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add green peppers. When lentil/bulgur mix is browned to your liking, transfer to pot with onions/peppers. Add spices and diced tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate.  Bring to simmer and let cook to meld flavors, about 15-20 minutes.  30 minute bean and bulgur chili.  Done and delish!

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Sweet Potato / Apple / Oat Nuclear Incident: Fast veggies with the Sunrise

It is a constant challenge to introduce vegetables to the breakfast table.  It is in the US anyhow… I’m sure there are places where veggies are more regularly eaten as part of breakfast but it is a struggle here.  I partially solve the problem with smoothies – throw some fruits and veggies in with milk or vegetable juice, hit the button and my child has actually eaten kale before 7 in the morning.  But I do like to find other ways to increase the intake of produce in the morning without relying solely on fruit.

One recent morning (when my good camera was not working, nor was my planning) I looked in the pantry and saw 2 sweet potatoes.  They were close but not touching, clearly having a little trouble getting along and both of them wanted to transform their molecular energy into a new form…. perhaps new cells for my ailing brain?  So I chopped them up fairly small. chopped up a big apple, and nuked the whole lot of red, orange and yellow bits until getting soft.  Although I am dimly aware (especially on the particular morning in question) of objections to microwaving food, I have to say that getting more veggies down the hatch seems to me to over-ride them.  I could be wrong, but I’m sticking to my Veggie-ful approach, and sometimes it needs a little help!!

Okay so now I have sweet potato and apple.  Where to go from here?  Well, after my son reported to the neighbor who gave him a ride to school one morning that he had a big bowl of nuts and seeds for breakfast, I decided we would forego the neighborhood report on the big bowl of potato and apple and add some morning normalcy…..

thus was born the Sweet Potato / Apple / Oat Nuclear Incident

1 – 2 sweet potatoes
1-2 apples
1 cup oats (I do not use quick oats – should be fine)
1 1/4 cups milk of your choice (I used unsweetened almond)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp – 1 Tbsp. cinnamon (I use a lot because it lends sweetness without sugar and is so darn good!)
handful of chopped walnuts
optional: sweetener, raisins, other nuts, broccoli (just kidding)

Chop the sweet potatoes small
Place them in the microwave in a large bowl for a minute or two while chopping the apple
Add the apple to the bowl and nuke again for a minute
Add the oats, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and walnuts and stir
Nuke for a minute and then stir again.
You can stop and eat this now if you like crunchier / more raw oats or you can nuke it again, but don’t go more than a minute at a time – or even 45 seconds til you see how your microwave does so that it doesn’t boil over the top.
You can also add more milk or water if you want your oats softer.
Add any optional delights!  I encourage you to taste before sweetening as the cinnamon and apple might just do it for you!

If you’ve never eaten soaked oats you may be surprised at eating oats that aren’t completely soft and mush-ified.  It’s perfectly fine – in fact some would argue that they are better for you…. less cooking, less altering of enzymes (uh-oh, the microwave is coming up again)
If you’d like to try some truly soaked oats (no cooking – throw it together at night, ready in the morning) check this out!
And if you’d rather not nuke the veggies you could cook them the old fashioned way the night before and mix in with soaked oats, or pot cooked oats in the morning.  But if you forget – don’t have time, whatever….. you can resort to the nuclear incident.

Here’s my one lame picture from the phone.  

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I was very pleased with this concoction and we will have it many times in the future.  It is much faster than some other hot cereals I make PLUS it has a glorious vegetable making it’s way down the gullet prior to 7am…. on weekdays that is.

Soup De Doo!

Everyone I’ve talked to in the last week or so has at least one person in their house who’s sneezing, coughing, hacking, and otherwise feeling miserable.  Both of the Sis sisters have been plagued as well. In my house, all four of us fell to this school born scourge.  And so, while appetites have not been hearty around here lately, we do seem to agree on the goodness of soup.  All soup, any soup, warm wonderful soup.  The fact that we had our first TRUE cold weather of the season only made the call for soup more compelling.

I’m assuming we are not the only coughers and hackers out there, so I thought I’d pause for a moment to do a bit of a soup tour.  But why, you might wonder, why worry so much about soup  recipes when there is nearly an entire aisle full of prepared soups waiting for me at the grocery store? There are many reasons why we prefer homemade to “factory” soup (my nephew’s designation). Canned soup is extremely high in sodium, when the label says low sodium, it means it’s lower than the salt lick next to it.  Canned soup also contains MSG (a good one to avoid according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest) even when it says it doesn’t, apparently.  Canned soup contains a plethora of unnecessary preservatives and unusual ingredients (like monster carrots and celery) that are in that can solely because it is a highly, and violently processed, canned food.  Finally, canned soup is expensive.  No, it’s not the most expensive thing you can buy, but compared to homemade soup, which can be one of the most frugal meal choices you can make, it costs a fortune.

So for all you coughers and hackers, all you frugal home cooks, all you folks who are feeling the first signs of winter, I bring you Soup De Doo!

Soups for Healing

   

1. Cold Kickin’ Soup –  My go to choice for headcolds and other respiratory yuck.

2. Shweet Potato Stew – Super soothing anti-inflammatory sweet potatoes with fantastic flavors.

3. Lentil, Mushroom and Sweet Potato Soup – Warming broth with healing mushrooms and anti-inflammatory sweet potatoes.  Greens for added nutrish and power protein lentils.

Crock Pot Wonders

 

 1. Slow Cooker Vegetable, Bean and Barley Stew – So easy, so delish.

2. Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup (DF) – You know you miss that tomato soup – you don’t have to.

3. Slow Cooker Creamed Lentil Soup – A surprising and simple slow cooker soup.

Twisted Classics

1. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Roasting the veggies brings out their sweetness.

2. Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup – Wild rice is so great in soup – never mushy.

3. Bellywarming American Black Bean Soup – We always think of Southwest flavors for black bean soup – this twist reminds us that black beans are very versatile.

Ready for a great big bowl of soup? I know I am (sniffle, hack, cough).  Be well, and get better before the gathering extravaganza begins!

Chickpea Salad Sammies (DF)

Lunch arrived today amidst a variety of house renovation chores.  Having little time to make a hot meal as I might have liked to, I decided sandwiches would be just the thing. Lacking our usual go to sandwich fare, and having eaten most of the leftovers earlier in the weekend, I was in a bit of a pickle (har har) about what kind of sandwiches I could pull together.  And then it struck me… literally.  The precariously balanced can of chickpeas in the pantry tipped and landed on my foot.  I decided I would show that can who’s boss.

In trying to figure out how to quickly incorporate chickpeas into a sandwich without mashing them and cooking them somehow, I considered typical sandwich offerings.  The notion of a chickpea salad came to mind immediately, and I knew a route that combined the chickpeas with some manner of creaminess and some savory herbiness could only lead to a good lunchin’ place. A quick dip into the fridge and the spice rack and I was off to the races.

Chickpea Salad (GF,DF) makes enough for 4 generous sandwiches and some leftover for a lunch or two

  • 2 outer ribs celery, choppedIMG_0306
  • 1/2 red onion (or whatever you like), chopped
  • 2.5 c cooked or canned (rinsed and drained) chickpeas
  • 4 T sunflower cheese (or creaminess of your choice)
  • 2 T dijon mustard
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 – 1 t dried thyme
  • 2 t dried tarragon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into smallish pieces
  • sprinkle paprika (opt.)
  • green olives, chopped (opt.)

Sound like a lot of ingredients, I know, but this whips up super quick.  Combine the chopped celery, onion, and chickpeas in a bowl.  In a smaller bowl mix the sunflower cheese, mustard, vinegar, and seasonings.  Whisk (or fork it as I usually do) until incorporated.  Scrape wet bowl into dry bowl.  Stir until they’re all playing nicely.  Add avocado and stir again to combine.  It’s okay if the avocado smushes a bit – it will just add to the creaminess of the salad.  Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and a dusting of chopped olives.  We had ours on whole wheat bread with red lettuce.  Delish, and just right for a VERY busy weekend.

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2 Ingredient Yum

What if you could mix 2 healthy ingredients in your food processor or super blender and end up with something that passes for a treat…. for dessert…. for fudge???

Well, my first question was, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  But I am so glad that the smart woman at Whole Food Simply did.   We have touted some other plant based / healthier varieties of fudge in the past, including holiday fudge which is more complex and a bit more work.  For fast and simple, you can’t beat….

2 ingredient Caramel Fudge (shared from Whole Food Simply) Continue reading

Bellywarming American Black Bean Soup

Have I mentioned that I LOVE soup? What could be better on these increasingly chilly days than a big bowl of warm and delicious? While I’ve shared quite a few soups with you (you’ll see they have their own category on the sidebar), I’ve admittedly been in a bit of a soup rut.  My Go To soups are really delicious, but after a while, the kids “THAT one again?” resonates a little too deeply.  I’ve gotten a little tired of my faves, and so went a wandering, with too little time for prep and a well stocked pantry. Problem solved.

Apparently it is possible to make black bean soup that is not Southwestern.  It had never occurred to me, despite my bean friendliness, to use those guys for a different flavor profile – talk about being in a rut! Once again my friend Deborah Madison (perhaps I should just call these posts Little Sis and Deborah), showed me the way out of my self-inflicted black bean tunnel vision.

IMG_0270Ms. Madison suggests a simple American styled black bean soup, and with a few adjustments it worked stupendously for Mr. Little Sis and I. After the whole crew tasted it, with lackluster response, Mr. Little Sis and I decided that since the kids had passed on it anyway, we would in fact add the bit of Madeira called for in the original version, and boy howdy was it great, even with my radically shortened cooking time.  This one would go gangbusters in a slow cooker. I finished the last bowl tonight and am happy to report that, as with so many soups, it’s even better after a few days.

American Black Bean Soup – adapted for speed and dairy considerations from Deborah Madison’s Black Bean Soup in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • olive oil for the potIMG_0263
  • 2 c onion, chopped
  • 1 c celery, chopped
  • 1 c carrot, chopped small
  • 2 c green pepper chopped small
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 t chopped rosemary
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 4 c black beans, soaked, cooked and drained or drained and rinsed from cans
  • 4 quarts water
  • leftover grains if desired (I used 1.5 c cooked brown rice)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 c Madeira
  • 1 c coconut milk (or cream)
  • chopped parsley

Warm oil in the pot.  Add onions and saute for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and herbs and cook until the color deepens a bit. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute.  Add the beans and the water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for at least 20 minutes.  Add salt to taste and grains if using.  Cook and additional 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and puree as much of the soup as your textural preferences dictate.  A smoother puree can be achieved in a blender, but I don’t like to do all that pouring of hot soup, so I use an immersion blender.  Add Madeira and coconut milk (or cream if you do moo). Serve with chopped parsley.  Wow.  So simple, so delish.  Perfect wholesome antidote for Halloween’s madness.

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Halloween Madness

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Fall Flavors: Bulgur Pilaf with a Twist, and a GF Option

While you wouldn’t know it today, at 77 degrees and sunny, Fall has definitely been in the air lately, and I’ve been craving some real hearty cooking.  In an effort, however, not to totally overdose on delicious casserole type dishes (that are far too mixed up in the foods department for my daughter), I’ve been trying on some new dishes.  The other night we struck gold, with a totally surprising combination. Continue reading