Weekly Meal Plan 5/11-5/17

It’s been an exciting domestic week here in mid-Maryland. The kids are giving me the daily countdown on school. The garden is in and mulched with straw (which if you ever purchase is a great time to line the car with a tarp, duh… The cabinet project proceeds and in acknowledging how very long this is bound to take, I’ve surrendered to the pace and am focusing on purging things as I approach each cabinet. It has been very liberating. While there is a certain charm to a chipped cup, the ones with cracks down the side are decidedly less cute. We had a lot of cracked bits. Some will be used as plant holders, some for pencils, some for fai

ry houses, and those that still function but were unnecessary are being donated. VERY freeing. I may need to find the cracked bits in all the other rooms as well.The things that accumulate in 25 years of adulthood can be staggering. All that we don’t need and that could be of use in some other way to to some other person… staggering. Dogs shed in the spring, and I’ve always thought there was sort of a built in zen wisdom to dogs. Perhaps it’s time to take a lesson from Baxter and shed away as though it’s the most natural thing to do. Meanwhile light meals that are easy to prepare (I’m flying solo this week) and that don’t add spiritual or physical weight to this lighter feeling are the order of the day.

Monday: Rice sticks with raw veggies, cashews and Asian dressing (Bragg’s, rice vinegar and garlic chili paste)

Tuesday: Super green salad, crusty bread, seasoned chick peas, olives, pickles (it’s supposed to be H.O.T.)

Wednesday: Zucheesey Noodles, peas, green salad

Thursday: Sesame Pancakes with Honeyed Oranges and Kale Smoothies (yes, I’m playing to the kid crowd while Dad is away… can you blame me?)

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies (we eat this while we have a movie picnic in the living room)

Saturday: Creamy Daal, Vegan Palak Paneer, Naan (we’ll see about all of this, ambitious after nearly a full week flying solo)

Sunday: Pasta (from a box, Daddy’s the homemade pasta king around here) with red sauce AND pesto, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Adult Lunches: salads, leftovers, hummus and spinach sandwiches

There. The week is much less daunting now. I hope it is for you too. ;-) Eat well, be well friends.

GF Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I posted ‘My Best Chocolate Chip Cookie – and it’s GF’ not too long ago.

You know what’s coming, now don’t you?  I was wrong.  I have a new best, although this is just an adaptation of the old best…… These are my best-est, BFF-est chocolate chip cookies – in fact they are right up there with my best cookies ever and are indeed GF, so the whole family is very excited about these cookies, and dang it, they are almost gone.

20150505_183509-001I hate it when everybody loves the cookies!  But what is not to love?  A little crispy on the outside – chewy on the inside, chocolate… do I need to go on?  Seriously, these are good cookies.

I also made these without nuts because 2 guests coming to a gathering that night don’t do nuts.  And I (who generally feel  that nuts are an essential ingredient in any worthwhile chocolate endeavor) loved them.  So the original recipe is here and the new recipe is………
Here!

GF Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

My Best GF chocolate chip cookies  – vegan as well!!
– adapted from I.S. at Yahoo Voices

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix (or your favorite GF baking mix)
½ c almond meal (or dried and pulverized leftover almond milk mash – that’s what I use)
½ c brown rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp tapioca starch or potato starch
1 tsp guar gum
½ c brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ c pure maple syrup
½ Tbsp blackstrap molasses
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup + 1/2 Tbsp organic neutral flavored oil (I used avocado)
½ – 2/3 c non-dairy chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the dry except chips
In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chips, and stir until combined
Place ½ Tbsp scoops on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little.
Bake for  12-14 minutes, rotating halfway through until browning just a tad on the bottom.  Mine puffed up slightly and then started to deflate.  That’s when I took them out.
Cool on a wire rack before removing from tray.
As Little Sis always says….. and she comes from a very bright family I hear – Eat that chocolate cookie while it is still warm!!

And if you’d like some more chocolate chip recipes…. we happen to have a few others.

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Drops

Sanely Delicious Chocolate Cake

Did She Say Chickpeas & Chocolate?

Good Neighbor Chocolate Chip Cookies

Enjoy your chocolate chips when they roll or drop your way and come back and visit us soon.

Weekly Meal Plan 5/4-5/10

Wow. I kicked some major garden booty this past weekend and I am feeling pretty smug. Or at least I was feeling pretty smug until I looked at the weather forecast and realized that it’s supposed to be in the high 80s most of this week. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m A-OK with some summery days arriving, but my little newly transplanted seedlings will not like it very much. What can I do about that? Give them a little shade is what I can do. I happen to have some of the kind of cover a lot of folks use for hoops to protect from frost or bugs. Here in mid-Maryland where late winter frequently hangs out until summer can make an appearance, I have found this kind of cover to be very useful – for cold nights and sweltering “Spring” days. So starting at about 2 pm I will cover those little babies and then get on with birthday preparations… for Mr. Little Sis.

Birthday planning is one of those areas where having different family cultures can really throw a wrench in things. In my extended family birthdays are pretty low key. Like, we are happy you were born, but let’s not get carried away, okay? In Mr. Little Sis’ family it’s like the freaking circus is coming to town JUST FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY. It took me a while to realize that this basic family culture difference was at the heart of what I rightly discerned as his very polite and yet still perceptible letdown on every birthday that I have orchestrated. I’ve upped the ante for the last couple of years with positive results, but am finding myself at a bit of a loss this year in the food department of the birthday celebration. I’ll sort it out, and it will be good, but you’ll notice an incomplete spot on my meal plan… and that is SUPER irritating to my inner OCD freak. Please forgive the omission and my neurotic response to it. I hope you are having a great week, that all your endeavors are established before the heat rises on them, and that you have plenty of cool foods to eat if you will be sweating… like the ones we have here…

Monday: Umbrian Lentil Salad, Green Salad, Whole Wheat Bread, Navy Bean Herb Hummus

Tuesday: Nutshroom Burgers, Sweet and Sour Pickles, green salad

Wednesday: Mr. Little Sis’ Birthday…. aaagh I don’t have a plan and I’m FREAKING OUT. Okay, not quite freaking out, but it’s not good people. I may just let him choose whatever he wants, which could mean just about anything depending on his mood.

Thursday: Singapore NoodlesMung Bean Sprouts Namul

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Taco Salads (Picadillo as the chili, big greens and cut vegetables, some healthier tortilla chips)

Sunday: Homemade Pasta, green salad

Adult Lunches: Power Tabbouleh, Kale Avocado Sprouts Salad

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Lemon Jots

 

Looks like a great week. Nice cool summery foods to welcome what looks to be a very warm May. I hope you have a stellar week and that all the important people let you know how much they love you. Okay, maybe if just one does that it would be good. right? Eat well, be well friends.

Very Roasted, No Stank Broccoli

Wow – what an invitation, huh? What is stank anyway?  You know, it’s just a variation of stink.  Reach back into your Christmas time trivia and recall the Grinch song:

“The three words that best describe you
are as follows
And I quote
Stink, Stank, Stunk”

Of course Mr. Grinch has garlic in his soul which is in his favor… but really – broccoli…. cabbage, kale, cauliflower and all of the incredibly healthful cruciferous vegetables do carry a bit of a stank with them.  I noticed it very strongly when pregnant with my son who despises broccoli, and have never fully appreciated it since.  I still eat it, it’s available and a gift of nutritious abundance – so I make my son eat it as well.  For awhile he offset that stank by putting ketchup on it (bleah!).  Now he reports that he prefers it steamed rather than cooked in the microwave… but he still doesn’t like it.

So when Snack Girl posted a recipe for broccoli that had her 6 year old begging for more I HAD to give it a try.  For my son’s sake.
Okay, for mine!  I’ve missed enjoying broccoli and if it works for him (always a dubious prospect when it comes to broccoli, asparagus or brussels sprouts) then so much the better.

downloadWhat is so different about this broccoli?  You throw it into the nearest volcanic vent, into the fires of hell…. or if you don’t have access, you roast it at 500 degrees.  That’s right 500 degrees.  I confess this was a new setting for me.  This setting could reveal dirt on the dial for those that have ovens with dials on them.  My little digital window said “Are you sure?” as I approached that lofty number.  And I said – “Of course I’m sure!  Why didn’t I realize earlier that you could heat blast the stank out of broccoli?”  Can’t wait to try it on brussels sprouts!

The other trick is to put a little sugar on it.  “AHA!” you say smugly. It’s the sugar, not the heat.  Well, it’s only a teaspoon of sugar for 2 pounds of broccoli, so I’m thinking that is not really the stank-remover.  It was indeed the fiery furnace.

We have shared Snack Girl offerings in the past and I recommend her as a source of common sense recipes and changes for folks that are not as interested in losing animal products from their diet.  I did not adapt her recipe much other than I cut the broccoli smaller (in hopes that would help number only son to try it with an open mind), and I used brown sugar instead of table sugar and avocado oil instead of olive.  I recommend that you use a high heat oil….. because this is really high heat!  And maybe your oven gets a little cleaner while these bad green boys lose their stank :-)

Snack Girl’s Roasted Broccoli
(makes 4 servings)

2 pounds broccoli crowns
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I used avocado)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (I used brown sugar – packed)
ground black pepper (optional – I opted out)

Preheat oven to 500F.  Place sheet on the lowest rack of the oven while oven heats up.

Cut crowns into 4 wedges LENGTHWISE (I cut smaller pieces – see above). Place broccoli in bowl and add oil, salt, sugar, and pepper to taste (optional). Toss to combine. When oven is heated, place broccoli on baking sheet and roast for 11 minutes (until slightly browned). Serve and enjoy!

20150427_184136This was very yummy.  My son was not enamored of this, but he did not make a face and he had to admit a little of the stank was gone.  I think he’ll come around, but I was sold.  I will do this again and again, and as I said before – I can’t wait to try it on Brussels sprouts.  As long as Brussel doesn’t mind ;-)

Weekly Meal Plan 4/27-5/3

Another day, another massive inhalation of paint fumes. But wait, you say, aren’t you concerned about your health? Aren’t you using low VOC paint? Don’t you need your brain cells Little Sis? The answers: yes (of course), yes (on the insides of the cabinets), and I guess sometimes. The cabinet project proceeds apace. I’ve finished a couple and am making my way around the first corner on the upper cabinets. Yes, this is time consuming. Yes, I now understand why people we talked to wanted to charge so very much to do this. Yes it looks fantastic, even only partially complete. And let me tell you how much more rewarding this is than any of the other chores that await, well except cooking which I still love, but confess is not quite as fun in my disarranged kitchen. I am not a terribly neat person, but I am not a big fan of a disarranged kitchen. I am working on my ability to accept said disarray as part of the process. Yeah, I’ll let you know how that’s going as soon as I rinse the sawdust out of my tea mug… For your meal planning enjoyment:

Monday: Potato Squashers, sautéed green beans, green salad

Tuesday: Easy Veggie Lo Mein (from Meatless Monday)

Wednesday: Spinach Chickpea Burgers, burger fixins, pickles and cut veggies,

Thursday: Tofu Bahn Mi, Quick Pickled Asian Carrots, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Nofredo Sauce, green salad, Wilted Mediterranean Kale

Lunchbox Treats: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: Namuls and leftovers all week

There it is folks. We’ll see if I can stick with it enough to share a recipe with you later in the week. How’s that for some ambition? If you’ve not yet checked out our FB page, give it a like . You know you want to. Eat well, be well friends.

A Big Winner!

unnamedThe long wait is over. After a week of entries, we have pulled a name from the hat (okay, it was a large measuring cup because yes, we’re that high tech around here) and Rita is the winner of our friend Annie Oliverio’s new cookbook. In case you miss the first description of this fantastic book, I’ll give you a short version Annie is a super creative and accomplished plant based cook. She has assembled a cookbook based on the kind of craving you might be having. Each craving includes a variety of healthful plant based answers to that craving call. She is really super talented. Bigg Sis and I have both been using recipes of hers for a few years and have yet to be anything but Wowed. So, Rita is the lucky winner, but you can get your own copy of Crave, Eat, Heal: Plant-based, Whole-food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite on Amazon. Check out Annie’s blog here. Rita, if you are a Facebook user, please go our page and use the message function to let us know where to send your book. If you’re not a Facebooker, let us know in the comments and we’ll devise another communication scheme. Congratulations to Rita for winning and to Annie for putting together such a wonderful book!

Recalls: Chicken Sausage, Blue Bell Dairy, Queso Fresco

NewsUpdate6It seems that while I’ve been busily painting and staining, there’s been a whole lot of nasty food contamination happening. Even if you don’t eat this stuff, please give it a scan so you can share as appropriate. Nobody wants to eat these things.

First up apple chicken sausages. Sold under different brand names, so if this sounds like something you have or would buy, please check the details here.  Apparently there’s a risk of eating some plastic machine parts with your chicken. Yeah, gross.

Next we have products from Blue Bell Creameries. This is a Texas based dairy products brand that started as a much smaller recall and has now expanded to their entire line of dairy products because of a risk of listeria. Details here.

Finally, queso fresco from La Clarita Queseria for staphylococcus aureus. More about that particular risk here. More about the recall here.

Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 4/20-4/26

Hey friends! We’ve had a string of lovely days here in mid-Maryland. helped friends celebrate their marriage over the weekend and got to take a lovely warm walk through our fantastic town. Came home to kids well cared for by their grandmother. All played out and happy. Supah. A lovely respite from our big cabinet project, which is still in full swing, although with a bit of an admission that the pace of last week is, in fact unsustainable. Still making plenty of progress and they’re looking really great (perhaps I’ll post a picture or two to our FB page), and I’ve made all manner of mistakes. I prefer to see them as domestic learning opportunities. What learning opportunities have you had lately? Any of yours involve band-aids?

Monday: Lentil Casserole, snap peas, green salad

Tuesday: Burritos/Taco Salads (with this Roasted Vegetable Chili)

Wednesday: Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff

Thursday: Mushroom Gumbo

Friday: Homemade pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Sushi Rice Salad, grilled veggies

Sunday: Homemade pasta with pesto, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Adult Lunches: kale salads and leftovers

Happy Spring to those of you enjoying the same season that I am. I hope all of your projects go smoothly, that all your meals are delicious, and that your learning opportunities are relatively painless. Eat well, be well friends.

Fabulous Carb-Craving Recipe and Book Giveaway

Friends, Family and Fans….. or is it Fan ;-)?  Wait, our mother doesn’t count as a Fan….

It is my honor to share with you a review and a recipe from “Crave, Eat, Heal: Plant-Based, Whole-Food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite” written by Annie Oliverio, AKA anunrefinedvegan.

unnamedBoth Little Sis and I are big fans of Annie’s delicious and healthy plant-based recipes and we have shared recipes from her blog in the past, so you may be familiar with some of her incredible recipes.  What has been left out of our sharing, and what is abundant and one of the extremely appealing elements of her book is the photography.  In looking through the book I was reminded of looking at a well-crafted seed catalog.  You can spend a good amount of time just planning and dreaming and seeing the abundance of the natural world!  Each photograph inspires you to eat better, feel better and enjoy truly delicious food.  She is really an artist in the kitchen and behind the lens and you will enjoy this book visually as much as you will enjoy the content.

As far as the content goes, the book is divided by cravings…., so instead of “Do you feel like Chinese or Mexican food tonight?” You can ask yourself or your eating partner(s), “Do you feel like salty, creamy, comfort food, carbs or crunchy tonight?”  It is an interesting and helpful approach to changing your diet to healthier food to find foods which scratch those gustatory itches which you may previously have scratched using unhealthy or processed foods.

Annie also provides a lot of help for those not familiar with plant-based or vegan cooking, so you can begin the book with an education that will help you and your family incorporate more vegetables and less animal fat into your diet.  And although I didn’t mention sweets above (because it was a dinner question), there are many fabulous sweets recipes to satisfy the post-dinner sweet tooth.

This is truly a gorgeous and informative book.  Annie is a thoughtful and interesting writer as well, so you feel like she is talking to you and helping you along with a bit of humor and lots of lovely intentions.

I prepared a recipe that satisfies carb cravings but can be GF – perfect for us because I can tell you that being GF can cause some serious carb cravings.  I am going to use her photo, because if you can use Annie’s photo – you should!  I am also going to use her introduction to the recipe because it will give you a taste of her engaging style.  We are giving away a copy of the book to a lucky reader!

So here’s the dealio on the giveaway – I won’t make you read more, because I know you want the free stuff. I get it, I like free stuff too! All you need to do to enter the giveaway is to leave a comment on this page. That’s one entry. If you’d like to double your chances, take a trip over to our FB page and give us a like. Two whole chances to win this lovely book with just a little typing and clicking. Yay!

Okay – you’re all entered up, so now let’s talk about Annie’s fab food!

We really enjoyed this meal.  My son who is an inveterate cauliflower hater enjoyed this meal (!).  Hooray!  I wouldn’t even tell any anti-cauliflowites in your house it is present…. they probably won’t know!  I will also tell you that the leftovers of this served without the wrap and with some chopped celery or romaine makes a great dish as well – sort of potato salad with some punch!  Check out the recipe, the book and Annie’s blog.  You and all of your arteries will be glad you did ;-)

I give you Annie’s….CAULIFLOWER, POTATO, & PICKLE WRAPS WITH TAHINI DRESSING

If you’re familiar with the television show, Seinfeld, than you probably remember the episode about The Bad Breaker-Upper.  Well, I’m The Bad Wrapper-Upper.  I can’t roll a wrap or burrito to save my life!  But it doesn’t stop me from trying.  This recipe was inspired by one I saw many years ago on a blog called Herbivoress, and I was surprised at how delicious this seemingly strange combination of flavors was.  My recipe is admittedly a lot more complicated than the original – but the basics are in there: potato, cauliflower, tahini – – and pickles.  

Gluten-free Option, Oil-free, Easy

CAULIFLOWER, POTATO, & PICKLE WRAPS WITH TAHINI DRESSING
Serves 4-6
INGREDIENTS

Filling
1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cups chopped cauliflower
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Vegetable Broth (see page XX for recipe), or store-bought low-sodium
vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. liquid aminos or tamari
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
Pinch sea salt
Pinch cayenne
Pinch sweet paprika
2 cups finely chopped romaine lettuce
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
4 kosher dill pickle spears
4 whole wheat or gluten-free tortillas, lavash, or pita

Dressing

1/2 cup tahini
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp. – 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 – 1 Tbsp. white miso paste
1 tsp. dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the potato, cauliflower, onion, garlic, vegetable broth, liquid aminos, and spices and toss to combine.  Pour this mixture into a shallow baking dish and spread into one layer to speed cooking.  
Bake the potato-cauliflower mixture for about 45 minutes, turning the vegetables two or three times.  The vegetables should be soft and slightly browned at the edges.  If the mixture dries out during the cooking time, add a splash or two of water or vegetable broth.  
While the vegetables cook, prepare the dressing.  Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a high-speed or regular blender and process until very smooth.  Set aside.
To serve, gently warm the tortillas, lavash, or pita breads.  You can either mix the vegetables with the dressing, or you can spread some of the tahini dressing on/into the breads and then add the other ingredients on top.  Divide the romaine lettuce between the breads, then spoon on the potato-cauliflower mixture, sprinkle with chopped parsley and top with one pickle spear per wrap.  

unnamed

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes including roasting time

Suggestions:

I prefer to eat this when the potato-cauliflower mixture is warm, rather than hot.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Annie Oliverio and Front Table Books.

There you have it my friends.  More vegetables and less animal fat is easier, tastier and oh so beautiful with Crave, Eat, Heal.  Check it out!

Weekly Meal Plan 4/13-4/19

“But I can’t. I don’t have time. I have SO much to do. There’s crap all over my counters. There’s stuff all over the table. I can barely move in my kitchen. I HAVE to finish this house project pronto. I can’t possibly stop and write a meal plan right now. No, really I can’t. I need to keep working until this thing is finished…” And so the monkeys have been shouting in my head all day. They don’t really shout – that would be too obviously hostile. It’s more of a chatter, you know, like monkeys.

You see, in my brilliance, I decided that rather than spending one more minute being annoyed with my kitchen cabinets, I would – no not pay anyone to do anything about it because I am way too cheap for such a maneuver – begin the process of refinishing them. Okay, it’s not a full on refinishing, but the details are not really all that important. Point is every inch of my cabinets needs to be touched several times with a variety of renovation products and tools – many of which create smells that are likely killing my brain. Yeah, so I started that without a single thought about what else might be on the calendar. Yep, that’s how I roll. Call me impetuous. Call me impulsive. Call me shortsighted and long on initial enthusiasm. Here’s the thing. I have a LOT of cabinets. Most of the time, that fact resides in the positive category. Today… yeah.

At any rate. I was preparing to publish a brief explanation of why I didn’t make a menu this week because totally busy, kitchen under tarps, stain all over my fingers, addled by primer fumes, and then it dawned on me (in spite of the aforementioned addled state) that this is EXACTLY when I need to make a meal plan. My week is going to be crammed and difficult. Mr. Little Sis is traveling this week. A close friend is getting married on Saturday and I have music to prepare for that. I have some resume work to do for some freelance work I’d really like to score (as long as they don’t give it to me anytime soon). I really need to make a plan for SOMETHING or the whole family logistical world is going down the crapper. So, I need a meal plan. And I need to actually spend a little longer on it than usual so I choose wisely. Momma needs a lot of help or there’ll be a whole lot of carry out, and I really don’t want to do that. So, here we go friends. A meal plan for the uber busy, slightly overwhelmed, fume addled, and admittedly a little grumpy home cook.

Monday: Varia-Bowls with Roasted Asparagus and Fabu Asian Peanut Sauce

Tuesday: Nofredo Spaghetti, peas, Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Wednesday: Chickpea Salad Sammies, Oven Fries, green salad

Thursday: Tunisian Roasted Vegetables see Bigg Sis’ tips on easy tabil and harissa here

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Wedding Dinner!! (no, not our wedding, we already did that almost 16 years ago)

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with roasted vegetables, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Yeah, I’m taking a pass here, okay? Low sugar graham crackers from a box this week friends.

Adult Lunches: Kale salad – from a bag… that’s right, I said it. This is how I cut myself some slack during a busy week. I buy kale salad in a bag. I am weird.
  

I will take some pictures later in the week and post them on our Baby Steps to Better Health FB page, which I strongly encourage you to visit. :-) Hope you’re managing your time and expectations better than I am this week friends. And yes, that’s a low bar, so there you go a win for the week for you – and it’s only Monday! Eat well, be well friends.