My husband makes our 16 month old son sweet potato fries regularly for an afternoon snack and he gobbles them up faster than you can say hot potato. So when I was at the health food store the other day and saw Okinawan purple sweet potatoes and Japanese white sweet potatoes, I had to get them for an extra special, healthy, and colorful treat. Continue reading
I’m sorry to admit it but I fell deep into a cooking rut over the past several months. I’ve been on autopilot and turning over and over again to my tried and true meals. Enchiladas, huevos rancheros, chili, tamales, stir fry…same ol, same ol. I was feeling pretty uninspired. Until…a couple of months ago when I was given the opportunity to pilot a home delivery program for groceries. Total game changer. The act of sitting down to order my groceries online every weekend has led me to start meal planning more seriously and has inspired me to shake things up a bit. And seriously…shopping for groceries in my jammies instead of shopping with a toddler in a busy store on the weekend? Heck yes!
One of the fun new things I’ve been doing with my meal planning is picking a cookbook every week and choosing two or three recipes from it to try that week. A couple of weeks ago we had Berbere red lentil stew (fantastic!), pad thai, and red flannel hash from Cooking Light’s Global Kitchen and Lighten Up, America! cookbooks. Next week I’ll be moving onto Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen with BBQ tempeh and spicy smothered green cabbage on the menu. But this week I’m having a wonderful time reading and cooking from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. On Sunday I made Balsamic Glazed Beets and this flavor packed pate. Tonight, my husband made the Three Sisters Stew with masa dumplings and spiced pumpkin seeds. It was a delicious departure from my normal soup repertoire.
This pate, one of my favorite new recipes, is great smeared on top of crisp crackers, pita crisps, or used as a dip for your favorite crudites. This is also a kid friendly recipe. My 15-month old waddled back into the kitchen several times to tug on my leg for another taste. Finally, it’s freezer friendly – perfect to pack away in little containers for snacks at work or on the go!
- 1 pound winter squash, such as pumpkin, acorn, butternut, or buttercup, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- Coarse sea salt
- 1/2 cup dry-pack sun-dried tomatoes
- 4 and 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly milled black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss squash chunks with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Evenly distribute squash onto a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until you can easily pierce with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
- In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the tomatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes to soften.
- In a saute pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until it softens and begins to brown. Add the walnuts, garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes and saute gently for 5-7 minutes, until the walnuts are fragrant.
- Drain the plumped tomatoes but save the liquid. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the sauteed vegetables and winter squash. Puree until creamy, adding the reserved tomato water if needed, until the desired consistency is reached.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
Transitions…I’ve had a few.
Three years ago I lived by myself in a historic home in downtown Grand Rapids. I worked from home and spackled, sanded, and painted my house in the evenings. I took my dog for a walk nearly every night and would stop to watch live music downtown. I did yoga four to five times per week – once I even did thirty classes in thirty days for a challenge. I posted on this blog every week. Yup. Every week.
That feels like a lifetime ago. In what feels like the blink of an eye, my whole world has forever changed. I recently did five yoga classes…in seven weeks. It was a small victory. Parenting, nursing, and working full time doing research for a footwear company has changed the every moment and the every day. For one, I’ve had a real reality check in the kitchen. Like packing my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the entire work week on Sundays so I can eat well throughout the week. Like steaming, baking, and pureeing everything I can think of so my little one can enjoy healthy and diverse solid foods and learn to love food like I do (puh-lease do not turn out to be a picky eater…I will crumble). Like burning the rice syrup while making these granola bars because he crawled out of the room (how did he get so fast???). Like nearly burning the granola bars because I left them in for two extra minutes.
Now put away your tiny violin. I’m not telling you a sob story. Most of everything has been so positive. My son brings more happiness to me than I could have ever imagined. I get to see the world from his perspective and finally have someone else in the house who completely gets my humor (he giggles when I pretend to smell his feet and say peeeeeuw!). And like everything else, this stage is a transition, a phase that won’t last forever. So I’ll just do my best, and keep on trucking.
But I digress. I wanted to talk about Transitions for another reason. The good folks at Transition Lenses asked me to try out a pair of glasses. Don’t mind if I do, I said, I’ll try anything once. I have to admit that the first image that crossed my mind was Cindy Knoebel. Seventh grade. Small glasses not much larger than swim goggles. Looking like she wore her sunglasses inside for ten minutes after first hour started. It didn’t really seem like my thing. Now, keep in mind that I was not exactly hip. I wore ugly-with-a-capital-U non-Transition lenses. Non-shading and non-transitioning from ugly. And keep in mind that Cindy Knoebel turned out to be prom queen and married the prom king. Maybe she was onto something. Anyhow, I gave them a shot and I have to say…I was pleasantly surprised. The tinting changes much more quickly than in the past. I was asked to choose from several shading options. And was able to add all the fancy stuff like anti-glare and a blue-screen filter to protect my eyes from the many hours in front of the computer screens at work. I also ran into two very cool people at an outdoor music festival this weekend wearing Transition lenses. Seems like it may be the cool people wearing them after all.
Well finally, let’s get back to what this blog is all about. Food. These granola bars from Cooking Light are my snacks for the week. On principle, I don’t buy snack bars because I know I can make them myself (but never do). They were so easy to make (they require about 10 minutes of dedicated attention), very easily adaptable, and very healthy to boot. I made this version, adding almonds, chia seeds, and some dried cherries to it. Let me know if you try these…and especially let me know if you come up with fun adaptations for the recipe!
For this and many other DIY healthy snack bar ideas, head to Cooking Light’s DIY Snack Bar slideshow.
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups puffed barley cereal (I couldn't find any so used puffed millet)
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2/3 cup prechopped dates
- 1/3 cup toasted pumpkinseed kernels
- Cooking spray
- 3 tablespoons toasted uncooked quinoa (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Combine tahini, syrup, olive oil, vanilla, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until bubbly. Alternatively, you can heat this on the stove but you must stir constantly and watch carefully so as not to burn the brown rice syrup mixture.
- Combine cereal, oats, dates, and pumpkinseed kernels in a medium bowl.
- Pour tahini mixture over barley mixture; toss well to coat.
- Press into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with quinoa (if using), pressing to adhere.
- Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely in dish.
I have a interesting quality that I haven’t mentioned on my blog up to this point. I guess I haven’t mentioned it because it’s something I’ve always had so don’t think about it often. But Drew mentions it to friends from time to time and I feel a bit like a carnival act. I have a memory like an elephant when it comes to food. The meal we ate on our first date? Ancho lentil tacos, barramundi cod tacos, a tea, and a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Our meal at the Vierling Tavern? Cajun Blackened Lake Superior White Fish with wild rice pilaf and green beans, finished off with a piece of key lime pie. My birthday meal four years ago? Cedar planked salmon vesuvio. Anyway, you get the point. I remember my meals. The good and the bad.
In the summer of 2006, I had recently begun subscribing to Cooking Light Magazine. One of the first recipes I dog eared and cooked was this golden beet salad. I made it for my packed lunch to eat during a work day on my summer gardening job. That summer I was home from graduate school and was working with my friend, June Moon, in the gardens she designed and maintains around town. That day, we sat at the patio table near the pool at a client’s house (my favorite part of his place was the English garden June had designed for his wife before she passed) and enjoyed this salad. I remember that moment every time I eat this salad. I remember the feeling of friendship. I remember the hot summer day and dipping our feet in the pool to cool off. I remember the feeling of working hard and looking forward to the best part of the day; taking a break to put our feet up and share lunch with a dear friend. I’m grateful for such a good food memory because it is so often tied to memories of where I was, who I was with, and how I was feeling at the moment.
Cooking Light’s recipe for this salad calls for roasting the beets and I can attest that it is a delicious way to prepare the beets–they develop a depth and sweetness that other methods don’t draw out. But when I’m in a bit more of a rush, I opt to boil the beets until just-tender. It takes less time and still yields great results. I also add copious amounts of chopped dill (adding some chopped fresh mint to the mix tastes great too!) because I love it.
Be careful when toasting the pine nuts. It is easy to go from toasted to burned before you know it!
For Cooking Light’s original recipe, click here!
- 3 large golden beets
- 3/4 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion (about 1 small)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Scrub beets with vegetable scrub brush. Cut off any “hairs” growing out of the beets. Cut off tops of beets and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch slices.
- Place slices into a pot and cover with water. Salt water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- When tender (but not mushy!), drain and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly. Combine beets, onion, and remaining ingredients in a bowl, stirring gently.
- This also tastes quite nice with some crumbled goat cheese or served on top of some quinoa or rice as a more substantial dish.
I’ve been making collard burritos for some time now. They have never made it to my blog. Maybe it’s because I think of them as my go-to quick meal that I eat when I don’t have time to play around with making things pretty. They are usually filled with a hodgepodge of quinoa, beans, and some random veggies. Nothing fancy. Maybe it’s because if I’m eating a collard burrito it means it is late and I don’t have daylight to photograph my creation for the blog. Winters are hard for food bloggers. There are nights that I prep my dish the night before, then race home, fly into the kitchen, and make a mess of everything, just so I can get the last ten minutes of daylight to capture my creation.
Hi! Great news! My sweetie and I are getting hitched! Just thought I’d let you know. I feel so fortunate. Drew is a gentle, kind soul. A hard worker. A true friend. An artist. And he brought baked oatmeal into my life. What more could you ask for?
I really grappled with what I should title this post. Why, you ask? Well….this dish is based on tofu. Now, I know a good number of people. And if there is one thing I know, it’s that they probably don’t all agree on the topic of tofu. Some eat tofu, some eat it if they have to, some would never let it pass their lips, and some tried it and don’t like it. It’s a pretty polarizing ingredient to be sure so I hesitate to call it out from the get-go, afraid it will turn off the fussy eaters among us.
Anyone else out there have cabin fever? I’ve got a bad case of it. Drew has about had it with the shoveling and pushing stuck cars out of a foot of packed snow. He has become the unofficial neighborhood snow expert. As I type, he’s out there in his Carhartt bibs and wool-lined Sorels helping neighbors and doling out advice on when to take a break while shoveling, where not to park, where not to drive, and how to avoid making things worse when you’re stuck. If he asks one more helplessly stuck college girl to buy a cheap bag of kitty litter to have in case of emergency I’ll die laughing.
Some things from my childhood have stuck with me and a love of chili with cornbread is one of those things. I fondly remember the big pots of chili my step dad would make when I was a kid. The soup was always served with a skillet of cornbread and it was always nice and spicy. When I commented/complained about the heat, my step dad ribbed me, telling me that the heat would burn the germs from my intestines. It’s a disturbing image but it was the start of my love affair with spicy foods, if not for the medicinal qualities, then for the taste.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner! As someone who is always thinking of her next meal, I couldn’t be more excited about the holiday. As most folks do, I have some favorite dishes that have always been traditional in my family. Homemade cranberry sauce. Cornbread dressing. Whole wheat bread dressing. I can’t wait to have these items on my plate. Over the years I’ve also updated some classics and they have bumped out the traditional dishes. The last couple of years I’ve been making a sweet potato puree with coconut milk, thanks to the recipe in Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen. A few years ago I updated green been casserole for a simple version of steamed green beans with pickled sweet and sour onions and a maple dressing. Love!! This year I plan to add Brussels sprouts to the table and came up with a new favorite way to eat them.