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?

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!

20151012_193234

 

Cheap, Easy, Delicious: African Lentil Casserole

This is not a new recipe to our blog, but it was posted way back at the beginning and it has played such a constant role in both our menu and Little Sis’ family menu that I can’t help but share a slight variation in hopes that it will catch some people who missed the original,.  Maybe the new spice profile will appeal to those who passed up on the original as well!

As boring as the name is, ‘Lentil Casserole’ packs a lot of bang for the buck…… or maybe a buck and a half.  Literally.  Dried lentils and dried brown rice lay the inexpensive groundwork for this hearty meal that gains great flavor with spices and in this case spinach.  My picky son really likes this and finds it ‘thermos worthy’ (to take to school for lunch).  Both my husband and I like it as well and when I heated some leftovers at work the other day, I was asked 3 times what smelled so good.  Just my little ‘ol cheap-o lentil casserole, no cause for excitement ;-)!

The ‘African’ part of the title comes from Tabil spice mix but this dish can be made with Italian spices, as in the original, or Mexican spices, or whatever you think will get your people’s attention!  Tabil is not necessarily easy to come by, but you can buy it or you can make your own.  Admittedly, using this spice mix can increase the cost of this dish a bit, as if you buy prepared it is expensive, and if you have to invest in the spices, it is expensive at first….. but very worth it in the long run and less expensive than buying.

This can be cooked in a crockpot over about 4 hours or on the stovetop in 45 – 60 minutes.  The beauty of the stovetop method is that once the onions are sauteed and the water is boiling, there is not much more to do, so it’s not a labor intensive hour and therefore gets cooked when we have forgotten to plan but are not yet starving!

African Lentil Casserole

1 – 2 tsp oil
1 & 1/2 c chopped fresh onion
2 clove garlic, mashed
6c veggie or chicken broth (I use ‘Better Than Bouillon – Vegetable‘ or this cheaper make your own version -FYI I don’t use sundried tomatoes when I follow that recipe as they gummed up my food processor)
1 & 1/2 c lentils
1 c brown rice
1 Tbsp Tabil spice mix
2 – 3 large handfuls of spinach

Saute chopped onion and garlic in the oil in a large pot if you are cooking on the stove, in a small saucepan if transferring to crock pot.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot of crock pot except for the spinach
CROCKPOT:
Cook on low for 2 hours, high for 2 hours.
About 15 minutes before eating or being done, add the spinach and stir, let cook until spinach is wilted.

STOVETOP:
After sauteeing onion and garlic add the rest of the ingredients except for spinach.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 – 60 minutes.  Just before serving, add spinach and cook until wilted.

It looks like a lot of spinach but it cooks down into MUCH less.

Pot of steaming lentils, rice and spices

Pot of steaming lentils, rice and spices

 

 

Put those handfuls in there….

20151003_124124

Then stir the spinach in…..

20151003_124805

Not so spinach-y that the finicky will be repelled 😉

And there you have it.  Cheap. Easy. Tasty.

Enjoy!

Balsamic Onion Topper

Winter squash is so reliable and sturdy.  Yikes.  Sounds like a truck – not an appealing description of food is it?  But, really, I’m enthusiastic…. even excited about this time of year when acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash become cheaper and so readily converted into hearty autumn fare.

Spaghetti squash does carry the undue burden of expectation because of that name.  I mean, CAN you do anything else with spaghetti squash besides treat it like a gluten free, healthier version of semolina spaghetti?  Of COURSE you can.  I’m rather transparent, aren’t I?  This idea is one that I am going to visit on other hearty vegetables and perhaps breads as well!

Treating spaghetti squash like the hearty vegetable it is, allows for pairings with other strong and reliable flavors.  Onion, balsamic vinegar and a dash of marjoram did the trick and turned our spaghetti squash into a very special side dish.  We really enjoyed this.

The recipe is really for the onion topping but it was totally created to go on my spaghetti squash without using tomato.  Please let us know if you try this on anything else – I think it has lots of possibilities!

Balsamic Onion Topper

1 Tbsp oil (I used avocado)
1 large sweet onion
1 – 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4/ – 1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 salt

Heat the oil.
Add chopped onion and cook over medium low heat allowing time to become translucent.
Turn up just a bit and add the balsamic, marjoram and salt.
Stir frequently
The longer you cook the more carmellized it gets -a little browning is nice!
Marjoram adds a flowery sweetness.  Don’t overdo it.  It’s surprisingly strong for such a gentle fragrance.

Serve over top of spaghetti squash.  (Spaghetti squash is easy to cook.  Just cut in half / scrape out seeds / place halves in large pot of boiling water and cook until tender, about 20 minutes depending on size of squash).

20151006_182823

I will have to get back to you with other possible things to put this on, but I think it would be fabulous in a lettuce wrap with re-fried beans, or other veggies – or on top of mashed cauliflower…. or, or, or?  What do you think?

Very Veggie-ful Piccadillo

If you are saying pica-what o?, then please read on.

If you are saying MORE veggies in piccadillo?, then please read on.

If you have lost all interest then perhaps reading on would still work because I am going to get to a recipe, AND it is quite delicious and healthy.  Who can resist that siren song? 😉

The story (and eventual recipe begins with moving into a new house.  I am afraid that my ability to judge what is in the pantry is based on years of experience of having lots of things IN the pantry.  This ability under new circumstances has disappeared and I seem to be missing lots of ingredients.  However, although some people have different ideas, it would seem that poor planning is the mother of my invention and at this point I must make lemons from lemonade (that’s a trick) and share this recipe that exists because I was lacking a few things.  Or, I could skip the whole thing and go to McDonalds!  HA!  Just kidding!  That would be a waste of time, money, calories and carbohydrates my friends….

Piccadillo is a cuban chili that, along with the regular chili stuff you’d expect, boasts the flavors and textures of almonds, raisins, green olives and cinnamon.

Do you really need anything else? Shall we just eat now?

It is a delicious combo and a family favorite.  However, with no lentils in the house, and no ground meat (not doing much of that these days), I needed a way to use the other ingredients, feed folks, and not totally screw up my resurrected meal planning system.

 

 

20150905_202021-001Zucchini, onions, and quinoa to the rescue.  This trio does not exactly sound heroic, but one can go many places with zucchini, onions and quinoa, and apparently Cuba is on the map!

My original piccadillo post is here, but if you’d like more veggies and less beans or meat – try this one!

Roasted Veggie Piccadillo

1 – 2 Sweet onions
3 – 4 zucchini
1 Tbsp high heat oil (I used avocado)
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 large bell pepper of any color
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes undrained – or about 1.5 cups diced tomatoes if you have fresh.
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry sherry (optional)
1 & 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 & 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1 & 1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1 – 1.5 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 – 1 cup raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped stuffed green olives (In all my coarseness, I simply chop in half)
1 cup toasted almonds
1 – 2 cups dry quinoa (or rice – quinoa is higher in protein)

Pre-heat oven to 400
Chop onions and zucchini into bite sized chunks.  Toss with 1 Tbsp oil and spread on cookie sheet
Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring a couple of times throughout.  Salt and pepper to taste.
While onions and zucchini are roasting, saute garlic in a little oil.
Add chopped peppers and saute for about 5 minutes
Add spices and heat briefly stirring
Add tomatoes, paste, and sugar
Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes
Prepare quinoa according to package directions (or rice)
Add roasted veggies when tender and a bit browned
Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes more
Add olives, raisins and almonds
Simmer for 5 or so more minutes
Serve over quinoa or rice or all alone!

20150901_184512-001Enjoy and tell us where your necessary deviations from the recipe have taken you!!

Fast Healthy Breakfasts to Start the School or Work Day

It is so lovely to wake up without an alarm, eat when hungry and at the pace desired.  Ahhhh.  It happened a lot for my son this summer (who had his first summer job and so not everyday), some for Mr. Bigg Sis, and even a little for me.

Despite the beauty of the changing leaves and crisp air and fresh apples, it is a sad fact of Autumn that the opportunities for this type of morning generally are less frequent.  However, as a former teacher, as a mother, and as a human who wakes up hungry, I can attest to the fact that a healthy breakfast sustains better performance in, and appreciation of work and school.  But who has time to make a healthy breakfast?  I thought you might enjoy a list of the fast but healthy breakfast ideas we have shared over the last several years….. and there were quite a few!  This list does not include our many pancake recipes as they do take more time.  I do recommend however that if you make pancakes or french toast on the weekend, make a lot and freeze the leftovers on a tray or plate.  When frozen, remove from plate and place in a plastic bag in the freezer for a supply of fast breakfast during the week!

However, these all are fast, or can be put together the night before and, of course are made from wholesome, healthy ingredients that will keep you and your family members running on full steam until lunch!  Enjoy and please share any fast breakfast tips that you use 🙂

Breakfast Ice Cream or Creamy Smoothies For All

Quick Sweet Potato Brekkie & Open Summer Sammie Brekkie  IMG_0097

 

 

 

 

Barley for Breakfast – 3 varieties

Quinoa & Oats breakfast / Quinoa & Buckwheat Groats breakfast

Crockpot Oatmeal

Veggies & Oats

Sweet Potato, Apple, Oat Nuclear Incident  1108130629-001

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato & Rice

Pumpkin Apple Oats in the Crockpot

IMG_9142

 Chocolate Crockpot Oats

 

 

 

 

Buckwheat Breakfast Bowl

Head out the door with something hearty in your belly that does not lead to a sugar crash, headache, fatigue or hunger pangs in a few short hours.  And enjoy all of the benefits of the end of summer and the beginning of a cool, crisp autumn!

Meatless Sandwich – Hear Me Roar

4GSKuPPZVqQRwVbEmMFkE0Mo0yNTlbVkXOzQrIa7I5M=w1112-h625-no-001I am sandwich, hear me roar

Meat, cheese and bread that’s what I’m for……

Well….. that doesn’t HAVE to be the case.  Who needs meat to make a sandwich?

There is of course the classic pb&j, but for the more savory seekers, or for the adult who wants to pretend he/she doesn’t really like pb&j, there are many alternatives.

Recently we moved into a new house that is a bit closer to Little Sis – like 640 miles closer (Yay!!).  So close in fact that we can plan outings, choose one of the 4 parents to hang with kids (Thank you Mr. Little Sis) and go see our fabulously talented niece in a play.  It was my job to bring dinner for myself, Mr. Bigg Sis and Little Sis to eat in the car as the outing involved traveling at dinner time.

New house, new frig, not all of the ingredients present that would allow me to fall back on something like hummus, so I threw together some chicken salad type ingredients with white beans and cashews instead.  The roosters in the neighborhood are still crowing and eating up the bugs in our yard. Good deal, huh?

This spread was a hit with the theater adventurers and was great the next day on a plate with greens.  Slathered on ezekiel bread was much easier for the car and it held together very well so that we did not embarrass our niece with beans spots.

Never Bean There Sandwich Spread (enough for 4 sandwiches)

1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup raw cashews
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp dijon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 cup diced celery (I use 1/2 cause I like it crunchy)
salt and pepper to taste

Place the cashews, lemon juice and dijon in a high power blender or try a food processor.  You can soak raw cashews for 4 – 6 hours to make them blend into a creamier substance but I did not and it was fine.

Do not worry about making the mixture completely smooth, you just want the final result to hang together and not fall into your lap.  If you double the recipe the blending of the cashews is also a bit easier.   And leftovers are ALWAYS a good idea.

Mash the beans a bit in a bowl and then add in the blender mash, celery and spices.  Mix.

Slather on bread with a little of your favorite spread – or naked!  Tomatoes are also an excellent addition.

Ny25OwbSj-4PDLHuo0XAiXf5kCyZNNmqB7HRI2qM5xM=w1112-h625-no-001Now that we’ve moved, you get to see pix taken on a new counter top… and there will be much more frequent posts.  Sorry for the absence!  Finishing school and moving have been rather consuming 🙂

Dtw4ki_FqVlYbgYTOe4pbL3p9X-fQwB-Pugv2BN5dZk=w1112-h625-no-0018BNPGKlvxgwJdScd8wHX6SdCGFifIBdml7uga9F__9s=w1112-h625-no-001

What kind of meatless sandwiches are your favorite?

Homemade weed killer

I used to spray Round-up on a myriad of undesirables…. poison ivy, ailanthus trees (known in some optimistic places as ‘tree of heaven’ and some realistic ones as ‘stink tree’), and dandelions.  Round Up was touted as safe for the environment and gardens.  Well, apparently that was hooey (to be optimistic) or lies covering up a cancerous agent, and since then Monsanto has been hauled up in the court of public opinion and found wanting in oh so many ways, ethics being the main deficit.

So when Super-Step Mom was looking for a better way to kill weeds in the gravel driveway, we did a little asking around, a little searching and settled on an easy formula that has indeed done the trick!  I can not find the original recipe that I followed (sorry whoever you were) but there are MANY versions of this out there.  Here is one that is close: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/158400111867245686/

Here is what I used:

Natural and Cheap Herbicide

1 gallon of white vinegar
1 cup of salt
1 Tbsp of liquid dish soap

Combine all ingredients in a bucket and stir until the salt is dissolved and the soap is dispersed and not clumpy.  Pour into your favorite sprayer – I like this one because I look like the tough chick from ‘Alien’

G8oGPqxQhi0dVw3q2M9AEhTCMFa92Lfa5PUkl6-1-Ig=w333-h592-noWell, maybe a little……

Spray only on plants you want to kill!!  This is not a good middle of your garden bed spray because apparently it will be awhile before anything grows back.  We used it to keep the gravel driveway mostly gravel 😉

gGZJWrtOoLNhx2GUUbD3mICIV8InLOBCjc_jrsPxzzc=w1053-h592-no

It works best when the sun is shining on the plant and although the website said it could take a couple of days, it took hours for the plants in the sun to reach the sorry looking state you see above.  How wonderful to find yet another way to decrease the nastier chemicals in the world, save money and get the job done!!!

For some other kinder, gentler gardening mixtures check out our post ‘Gentle Garden Arsenal

Eat well, be well & garden well!

Squash Browns (sounds like Hash Browns)

I saw this term somewhere recently and thought, “Hmmmm.”  Now there’s a good idea.  Substituting squash for potato and cutting down on the grease sounds great.  But how to do that and still have some crispiness?  And how to do that without standing over a hot stove in the middle of the summer?  And can I actually make this for breakfast?

I think I have a good answer for 2 of those dilemma and even though I’m not a fan of gastronomic or musical meatloaf, ‘2 out of 3 ain’t bad’.  In fact it’s actually good if it get’s more veggies on the table with less effort.

As far as not standing over a hot stove goes, there is nothing like roasting.  It still gets hot near that oven, but I am not standing there!  I chop, drizzle or coat with oil and spices, put it in the oven and move on to some other task, even if it is sitting down with some PMS tea….. all by myself….. wonder why no one is sitting with me?

As far as the crispiness goes…. my son recently found a bag of packaged croutons in the pantry.  Ooooh – like crack to someone who doesn’t get white bread.  I mean, really they are almost like Dorito’s – crispy with flavor powder sprinkled on top.  He keeps asking to have salads, so there is a definite silver lining to that cloud, but the idea of croutons jumped out as a crispy addition to squash browns and they can be made the same way as roasted vegetables, using your bread and spices of choice:  Chop, drizzle or coat with oil and spice, pop in the oven and walk away…. although not for as long!!

As for the making it for breakfast, well it depends on how much time you have, but as this recipe happens at high heat, it doesn’t really take that long.

So, I give you my version of Squash Browns

1 sweet onion (I used a rather large onion because I love onion – your choice!)
2 medium tender yellow squash
2 slices of Ezekiel bread or other whole grain, hearty bread
garlic salt and/or garlic pepper and/or seasonings you’d like to try
1 – 2 Tbsp high heat oil like avocado

Pre-heat oven to 450
Chop onions, yellow squash and bread into squares
20150630_173027 Now, I tossed them all together and ended up removing the bread during roasting because bread browns much more quickly than squash and onions, so…..
Toss your onions and squash with 2/3 of the oil and spices
Place on tray and place in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes.  Roasting time depends on how big you cut your chunks and your taste in tenderness and browning.

While the squash and onions are roasting, toss the bread cubes with oil and spices, then go drink your tea 🙂
When your squash and onions are getting close to tender and brown, add the bread cubes and stir it all together.
Continue roasting to taste, but it’s really good if you stir once and let the bread cubes get crispy on several sides.

20150630_180104

 

It will take another 5 – 10 minutes to brown the bread.

Eat it up, nice and hot, maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought
– Garrison Keillor’s rhubarb pie song from A Prairie Home Companion radio show.

It’s not rhubarb pie, but I thought these were awesome.  One of the squash I used was a little tough on the outside and this does not translate so well into the roasting process (unless you peel it and I am an anti-peeler), so I highly recommend using tender young summer squash for this.  I did my experimenting with this recipe in the evening, so we did not have it as part of a healthy breakfast, but!  It certainly could be….. in fact today is Friday, so there are 2 mornings where I’ll have a little more time, maybe we’ll try them out on Sweetie Dad and Super-Step-Mom.  It’s a great way to start,                                or end,the day.20150630_180427Veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies.  Eat well and be well friends!

Blueberry Sauce for my French Toast

However you make your french toast….. and there are vegan ways to make it!  You still generally have to pour some sugar on it in some form….. or you think you do.  I think I do.  I know I’d like to.  But I try to limit the amount of maple syrup that I pour, and the amount of honey that my son pours over the french toast.  Or pancakes.  Or hot cereal, OR whatever you might like to pour sweet gooey stuff on.

Well, this blueberry sauce idea is indeed sweet but it dilutes the maple syrup and adds some vitamins, anti-oxidants, and fiber.  Now this terrific treat might sound like something you could only do on weekends, but there’s no cooking involved and it was just a flick of the blender switch, so this is worth doing any morning, for hot cereal, leftover pancakes or french toast.

I placed 1 cup of blueberries in the blender and added 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup.

20150628_082230-001 That may still sound like a lot of maple syrup but this makes enough for from 4 – 6 people and so that means the maple syrup content is really only 1/3 – 1/2 a tablespoon per person.  Not to mention the additional nutrition of the whole blueberries.  Well, they WERE whole blueberries when I put them in.  I must confess that this concoction goes quickly from the lovely purple you see to the left to a sort of brown-ish with dark flecks of blueberry skin in it.  It also congeals a bit, so it must be poured slowly or you will get a huge glop of it on your french toast, or pancakes or hot cereal or face.

Now if you are a more measured person like Mr. Bigg Sis, OR are the second one to pour, as was Mr. Bigg Sis, then your french toast will look like this with the blueberry sauce on it…

20150628_083213-001

But, I think the sloppy version picture looks much more tasty 🙂

blueberry stuff-001  Well, use your imagination on the tasty looking part.  It really was good. If you prefer a thinner consistency you could add a little water or nut milk, but the thickness was still wet and completely satisfied the need for moisture and sweetness.

The leftovers do separate a bit, but a stir and a mash and it was ready for another go.  If you want more ideas for less sweet, but still yummy toppers for pancakes and french toast, check these out.