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.


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.

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!

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.

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!

Weekly Meal Plan 10/12-10/18

Well hey there friends. Gearing up for what looks like a strangely variable week here in Mid-Maryland. The weather map has one of those big dips on it with lots of arrows and color variation. Yeah, so I’m checking highs and lows… Am I the only one who does this to decide what to eat? There are some things I just don’t like when it’s hot. Soup is okay, but stew is out. No stew when hot. It is written… right here… on this blog.

At any rate I’ve got a handle on the weather and I’m beginning to get a handle on our evening activities around here. As I think I’ve mentioned before Mr. Little Sis and I have added some diversions and obligations to our various to do lists and as a result evenings have gotten a lot busier. I recently considered sending everyone on their way with a packed lunch that is dinner sized to justify just having toast and salad for dinner as that’s about all I want by the end of these busy days. I decided pretty quickly that while that would be fine with me, it would be a generally unpopular move that I would then have to discuss…. that sounded more annoying than finding the energy for a legitimate evening meal. So, back to those highs and lows. This week begins Crock Pot week – no it’s not a national Facebook thing, at least not yet. I just mean in my house, the Crock Pot can now legitimately make its grand fall entrance. It’s not going to get above 75, so out comes the Crock Pot to help make sense of the increasingly stupid schedule.

Monday: (Baseball, schedule shift, normally Thursday, band practice for Mom cancelled) Sesame Whole Wheat Pancakes with sliced peaches, cut carrot sticks (every once in a while breakfast for dinner makes people really happy)

Tuesday: (violin and viola lessons, Crock Pot required) Slow Cooker (No Cream) Creamy Tomato Soup; Multigrain Bread, green salad

Wednesday: (Mom has choir) Lentil Bulgur Burgers, Roasted Potatoes, Green Salad

Thursday: (no baseball but conference call for Mom) Zucheesey Noodles, sautéed green beans, roasted cauliflower

Friday: (kids are out of school for no apparent reason, no this doesn’t necessarily affect the dinner, just thought I’d throw it in there for kicks) Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday:  Mee Goreng (an experiment from a new book that if I have my act adequately together enough I will tell you about later… pretty sure that’s how I used to do this)

Sunday: (choir, baseball, and then) Homemade Pasta for friends, Easiest Pasta Sauce Ever and Pesto, Broccoli Meatballs, Green Salad

Adult Lunches: Leftover Potato Squashers from last week

Lunchbox Treats: Leftover Fruit & Veggie Smoothies in these bad boys


Here’s hoping your highs and lows are within your tolerance level and that your curveballs are only temporary deviations! Eat well, be well friends!

Weekly Meal Plan 10/5-10/11

Hey there people! I don’t know what the weather is doing in your neck o the woods, but here in Mid-Maryland, we’re breathing a pretty big sigh of relief as all relevant storm systems head out to sea. Bye bye wind. Bye bye rain. Thanks for taking it easier on us this time. I sincerely hope that wherever you are, and especially if you’re on the SouthEastern seaboard, you made it through this one unscathed.

We’ve got a lot brewing here because for some ridiculous reason, Mr. Little Sis and I decided we didn’t have enough to do. He has added a graduate program to his two jobs and I’ve added some classes, a gigging band, and some freelance work to mine. There, how’s that? Busy enough for you? Why, yes, yes it is. Thank you very much. I am having to very much rely on all my prior thinking about quick real food as we never seem to have enough time to do the slow cooking thing – well at least until Crock Pot season, which is almost here. So forgive the inelegance of these plans, I’m doing my best. And I’m willing to bet there are at least a few of you out there who don’t have enough time to cook for long either – so here we go.

Monday: Tacos with Stupid Fast Chili filling and quinoa, cut veggies

Tuesday: Spinach Chickpea Burgers, green salad, roasted cauliflower

Wednesday: varia-bowls with rice noodles, baked tofu, pickled carrots and chopped veg

Thursday: Kichadi, peas, green salad

Friday: Dinner at the Gig (if you live in MD, head on over to Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick. We play at 7)

Saturday: Dinner at Bigg Sis’ house (Yay!)

Sunday: homemade pasta, green salad

Adult Lunches: Leftover Chili as taco salad, Cold Kickin’ Soup (yep, it’s here – poor Mr. Little Sis)

Lunchbox Treats: Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Here’s hoping your hamster wheel is spinning at a pace that works for you OR that you’re in one of those hamster balls so you’re actually able to go somewhere with your spinning. ;-) Have a great week!

Weekly Meal Plan 9/14-9/20

I began writing this post and realized that I wasn’t in fact writing this post at all, but another one that discusses overcommitment and its toll on our spirits. I’ve saved that and set it aside in favor of meeting this particular commitment, albeit a day late. If you don’t see the irony here, you probably need more rest too. ;-)

In all seriousness, my relative persistence in posting a meal plan is very helpful to me personally. I mean, I hope it helps you as well, but really, when I take the time to do it, I am actually planning our meals – something that doesn’t necessarily happen if I don’t sit down and write a post about it. You are keeping me accountable whether you’re using these or not – look how powerful you are! The exercise is also useful because of its unassailably necessary nature. This is not to suggest that we will expire if I don’t make a meal plan, or to indicate that I am completely unrealistic and believe that it is never okay to fly by the seat of your pants for a day or so because you just can’t do one more thing right now. I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m able to make those adjustments from time to time, but when it comes down to brass tacks, we need to eat.

I say it all the time in these meal plans – “here’s what’s going on in our house… but we still need to eat.” No matter what chaos or drama emerges, no matter what the dog eats and requires emergency veterinary intervention for, no matter which car or house part needs fixing or replacing, we need to eat, and when I plan what we eat, all of those other parts work better and are less stressful. It’s a little tiny slice of domestic magic that does not always shine so brightly in the abstract when it’s on a checklist of too many other important things.

So thank you for holding me accountable, reminding me that there IS something I can do right now to make all of our lives easier this week.

Monday: Southwestern Salad, whole wheat bread

Tuesday: Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Tomatoes (very much like this dish); sautéed green beans, bell peppers

Wednesday: Miso Soup, green salad

Thursday: Nutshroom Burgers, veggies for burger toppings, steamed broccoli

Friday: Homemade Pizza (artichokes and onions and no moo for me!), cut veggies

Saturday: Thirty Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili, green salad, rice or taco shells to go with

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever and spinach, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Homemade Smoothie Pouches (these reusable food pouches are the bomb!) – just search smoothie in the search bar, we’ve got lots

Adult Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup (It’s coming. I can feel it.)

Here’s hoping your priorities are clear and well aligned with your values… okay, that’s too much. I hope you have a super week.

Weekly Meal Plan 9/7-9/15

It’s hardly fair to post what my meal plan was for today when 1) it has already occurred and 2) I didn’t have anything to do with planning or preparing it, but oh well. Fair shmair, right? Yes I have young children and have little regard for claims about what is fair at this point… I digress…

So we’re still having a heat wave here in Mid-Maryland, and to be perfectly honest, I’m over it. Maybe not as over it as all of the trees and bushes in my yard, but I’m over it nonetheless. I’ve had to dessert my usual total disregard for watering plants other than food generators in the interest of maintaining the living privacy protectors and clean air generators around me. I simply focus on different plants every day and hope it’s enough. The rain barrel will run dry soon, however, so do a little rain dance or something. I’m sure I’m not the only one who could use it. Perhaps if we all did it together? In the meantime I’m going to need to whip up a kid friendly plan this week as Mr. Little Sis will be traveling a great deal and I am simply not up to challenging their palates as much when I don’t have any reinforcements available. Kid friendly food it is!

Monday: Cookout at Sweetie Dad and Super Stepmom’s

Tuesday: Veggie-Full Picadillo (Big Sis’ new innovation on an old favorite), green salad

Wednesday: Tacos (with leftover Picadillo and lots of chopped veggies)

Thursday: Zucheesey Noodles, Broccoli, Green Salad

Friday: Sprouted Pizza Bagels, cut veggies. The ultimate cheat. I buy sprouted grain bagels and the kids make pizza bagels with them. They’re happy; I’m happy. Win Win.

Saturday: Gazpacho, Avocado Toast, Kale salad

Sunday: Homemade pasta with pesto, Spinach salad

Lunchbox Treats: Homemade Applesauce

Adult Lunches: Leftovers, Baked Tofu (I got a deal on some tofu and need to use it up – sounds sinister doesn’t it? “Psst. Hey, you, you want some tofu? I got a deal for you.”

Here’s hoping all your meals are met with great anticipation and equally great praise and that all of your tofu is purchased from legitimate but reasonable retailers.