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.

Popcorn Pasta – A Strangely Named Last Minute Dinner

Popcorn Pasta?! WTH is she talking about?! This could take many unappealing forms – using popcorn AS pasta and putting sauce on it – which would, of course, melt the yummy part of the popcorn and leave you with a strangely starched and very hull-y red sauce. Yeah, that’s not it. One could also, in theory, put popcorn on your pasta as a topping I suppose, but similar difficulties would ensue unless of course you were using raw pasta in which case I would tell you that nobody who is sober should really chew on raw dried pasta. So what on earth is popcorn pasta, my kids’ new favorite?

Popcorn pasta is named thusly only because I season it the SAME way I season popcorn. So you’re about to get a key not only to super easy and yummy pasta but to fantastic popcorn (you know the kind you make in a pot and then put stuff on). Popcorn pasta has 4 ingredients. Yep, I said 4. It is done in approximately 30 seconds longer than it takes to cook your favorite dried pasta, and, in case I haven’t said it, is super yummy. Four ingredients: dried whole wheat pasta (yes, please whole wheat and here’s why OR if you’re a white pasta devotee, still read that bit about why and try a blended pasta to get used to the idea of wheat pasta), olive oil, salt, and nutritional yeast.

We were fine there for a minute, weren’t we, and then I said nutritional yeast. There are many of you (our vegan pals) who already know about nutritional yeast and likely call it something like “nooch” so you don’t have to use this totally unappealing moniker, but the uninitiated will not find “nooch” in the store, so we have to pull back the curtain. What the heck is nutritional yeast?! Unfortunately this is not a terrible quick, or appealing sounding answer. I can tell you that it is NOT the same as baking yeast and substitutions will create messy and unpleasant results. It is also NOT Brewer’s yeast, which will not be as messy, but will taste like poo. Nutritional yeast comes in flake and powder form and is often used in dishes that might otherwise include some cheese – ya know, like pasta. Why on earth must they call it nutritional yeast? Well, clearly whoever named it did not study marketing, but here’s the skinny on “nooch” from one of my favorite bloggers (FatFreeVeganKitchen)…

“As you can guess from its name, nutritional yeast is packed with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. It’s low in fat, is gluten-free (check specific brands for certification), and contains no added sugars or preservatives. Because vitamin B12 is absent from plant foods unless it’s added as a supplement, nutritional yeast that contains B12, such as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula, is a great addition to the vegan diet (though I strongly recommend taking a supplement as the only way to be sure you’re getting enough). Not all nooch has B12, so check the label carefully before buying.

The vitamins and minerals are all well and good, but truthfully, I use nutritional yeast for its flavor, which has been described as cheesy, nutty, savory, and “umami.” Just a tablespoon or two can add richness to soups, gravies, and other dishes, and larger amounts can make “cheese” sauces and eggless scrambles taste cheesy and eggy.”

So there you are – good reasons to use nutritional yeast despite it’s terrible name. Two more good reasons: awesome popcorn and Popcorn Pasta. I am only writing this up in recipe form because I am unable to bear the inconsistency that would result from simply describing the procedure (which would admittedly be adequate), now you know something about me you probably didn’t want to know.

Popcorn Pasta

  • Whole Wheat Pasta cooked according to your preference (we’re an al dente bunch)
  • Olive Oil
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Salt

So here you go, the big finish. Add olive oil to your cooked pasta – enough to make it a little slick, not enough to pool. Add generous shakes of nutritional yeast and a teaspoon of salt (adjust for your taste and pasta amount). Stir together – if you have one of these beauties this part is even easier. Taste. Add ingredients as desired. Serve with veggies. Demolish. Delight. Yes, the procedure for super yummy popcorn is the same, although I use a mister for my olive oil in that situation to avoid the aforementioned popcorn mush problem. Eat well, be well friends, even when that means eating things with terrible names.

No! Not a Hummus Recall!

Ever wonder what 30,000 cases of humus look like? I hadn’t until this very moment when I read about that number of cases being recalled for potential listeria contamination. Mercy that’s a lot of hummus. Listeria is a nasty bugger. If you buy hummus at the store, please check the details on this one. If you’d like to save a little money and have the freedom to make your hummus just as you like, take a look at all of our hummus recipes. Just search hummus and you’ll have plenty of options. Eat well, be well friends.