A few days ago, I got a text from our friend, Natalia. Natalia is a dear friend of ours who has a voice like honey, is sharp as an icicle (the sharpest thing my mid-winter brain could come up with), and has a knack for coming up with great food combinations, which she photographs, as you do, and sends to her foodie friend, as you do. She also likes to say, “as you do”, as I just did. This most recent text was an image of a citrus salad, built around grapefruit from her recent trip to Arizona. She added watercress, avocado, goat cheese, a lemon vinaigrette, and spicy salted pepitas. The text was a great reminder that citrus is in season, even if my brain has a difficult time wrapping around the idea that there is anywhere on this earth that isn’t covered in several feet of snow and a blanket of clouds.
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.
When I was pregnant and shortly after I had my son fifteen months ago, I received a great deal of advice. Some of the advice was game changing, like the advice to get an Ergobaby carrier so I could “wear him down” to sleep while still getting some things done. Some of the advice clearly works for some babies but not mine…like the advice to put River in his crib and allow him to soothe himself to sleep. Let me just say that after many, many, many attempts and variations, he wants nothing to do with that business (and who would, when they can fall asleep with their head on mama’s warm chest, listening to the thump thump of her heart?). And some of the advice was just plain weird, like the time I was told by a well-meaning stranger at a concert that I should take a washcloth and rub vigorously to “toughen up my nipples” before I had my son. Seriously. A stranger told me that. I can’t make this stuff up.
Two pieces of advice that have been truly invaluable during this time have been 1) to take care of myself and 2) to embrace routine. Both are often easier said than done but over time I have found some great ways to streamline my day and make sure my basic needs are met so I can be a good caregiver and worker. As a food lover and still-nursing and pumping mom, that means making sure that I have snacks and lunches prepped and packed for the week every Sunday. I’m all about making one big batch of snacks and lunches to last through the weekdays. Freezable dishes? Even better. This recipe for granola bars provides me with a healthy snack that is easy to make ahead of time, easy to pack, provides a great boost of energy, and is freezable. A super food.
When I started out on my task of creating a granola bar recipe, several recipes I encountered online required baking the bars. I found that it was very difficult to get a consistent end result that was not dry or too chewy. After much tweaking and taste testing, this granola bar recipe is the result of my efforts. It requires roasting the grains and nuts ahead of time to add flavor without drying or hardening the bar. After the grains and nuts are roasted, it only takes a few moments to stir the dry and wet ingredients and to pat them in the pan to set. Easy. Delicious. Cheaper than a Kind bar. My favorite granola bar yet. I hope you love it too.
Have a sweet tooth? These granola bars are naturally sweet from the brown rice syrup and touch of honey. Still hankering? To turn this into more of a dessert granola bar, add a handful of dark chocolate chips to the mix. You won’t regret it!
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup puffed millet (optional – you can use another cup of rolled oats if you don’t have puffed millet)
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
- 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 2.5 cups dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries, etc.
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (I like to use crunchy)
- 2/3 cup brown rice syrup (I buy at iHerb.com)
- Put the oats, millet, almonds, and pumpkin seeds on a large sheet pan. Spread to distribute evenly. Roast at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes until crispy but not browned.
- Meanwhile, heat the honey, peanut butter, and brown rice syrup on low in a saucepan. Heat just enough to easily be able to mix the peanut butter with the sweetener.
- Put the dried fruit into a large bowl. Add the roasted grains and nuts and mix. Pour the liquid mixture onto the dry mixture and stir well to combine.
- Pour the mixture onto a sheet pan or a 9x13 baking pan lined with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the pan hard enough to ensure the mixture will adhere and be able to be cut into bars. I recommend using a flat bottomed measuring cup or bowl to press the mixture into the pan!
- Place the pan into the fridge to cool off for an hour.
- Cut the bars into squares or rectangles.
- These also freeze very well so you may freeze any extras you have.
- Makes about 24 bars.
An old Ukranian proverb forewarns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.” As a big beet fan, I’d like to think that a tale that begins with a beet will end with deliciousness.
My cooking style has changed considerably since my baby boy arrived in November. Meals are simple, quick, freezable, and lunch-packable. Sundays are filled with food prep to make the work-and-baby-filled weeks a little easier. This Sunday I prepped muesli for breakfasts, grains, tofu, and greens for lunches, and snacks for the whole week. As a nursing mom, I need to make sure I’m eating small, healthy snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and hummus is a clear winner. Hummus is packed with protein and fiber, easy to make, and endlessly versatile (spread on crackers or in a sandwich, use as a dip with carrot sticks or sugar snap peas or put a dollop on a grain salad). Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with a basic hummus recipe but last month’s Cooking Light magazine inspired me to get a little crazy with my hummus and the results were great. Continue reading
Happy New Year! I just got done filing almost a year’s worth of paperwork (ahem…I sheepishly admit that last year’s resolution to stay on top of my filing didn’t stick for more than a couple of months….sigh…what do you do?). I feel accomplished and proud for the moment. That feeling will last only briefly, until the baby cries, , my hair stays wet, the laundry that needs folding piles up at the end of the bed, and I realize that I haven’t eaten in six hours. As I stand over the counter scraping avocado out of the shell with a cracker while bouncing just so to quiet the little one, I’m sure the elation of my paperwork success will feel like a distant memory. But hey, I’ll take it while I can get it. Continue reading
Happy Labor Day Weekend! It’s been a while, folks. And I’m sorry for that. But let me explain. In the last three months we have bought a house, sold a house, become a married couple, gone to Alaska on a honeymoon, and started to tackle a lifetime of projects on the 1870 farmhouse we moved to. And through it all, my belly has grown bigger and bigger (and along with it my emotions) as we prepare for the arrival of our first little one at the beginning of November. If I tried to take on anything else, I think you could just assume I’ve gone clinically insane.
And through it all, meals must be made and eaten, day in and day out. In fact, I’ve eaten a lot more and a lot more frequently as the months of pregnancy pass. But have I been stopping to snap photos, write recipes, and post about it? Not so much. When you have to eat every couple of hours, planning for, preparing, and packing food can start to feel like a chore rather than a passion.
Every once in a while though, I come across a dish that just hits all the cravings just right. This dish is one of them. Juicy watermelon, tangy feta, cooling cucumber, and peppery arugula drizzled with lime, honey, and vinegar. Sounds weird, right? Trust me on this one, take hold of the last bits of summer, and enjoy this salad.
If you are looking for last minute inspiration for salads to add to your Labor Day picnics, check out Cooking Light Magazine’s List of Great Summer Salads. In addition to their own version of watermelon and cucumber salad, you’ll find 35 other beautiful, simple salads to fill your picnic table and lighten your barbecue.
Ahhhh…it’s good to be back.
- 1/3 small seedless watermelon (about 6-8 cups), cut into ½ to 1 inch cubes
- 2 small Kirby, English, or other small cucumber with tender skin
- A few handfuls of arugula
- ¼ cup of basil, rolled up and sliced into skinny shreds
- A few pinches of coarse sea salt
- Juice of one lime
- 8 ounces of feta cheese, divided
- 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar (optional)
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- Add cubed watermelon to a large bowl and gently mix in all ingredients through lime juice. Gently toss with half of the feta and crumble the rest on top.
- If adding white balsamic vinegar and honey, mix the two together with a fork or tiny whisk before drizzling on salad.
- Serve immediately! This salad, like many salads, do not hold up well overnight in the fridge.
Happy spring….errrrr….whatever it is. Today is March 25 and we had whiteout conditions for parts of the day. Nevertheless, I have some faith, due to thirty two years of walking this earth, that one day soon the sun will shine, the snow will melt, the crocuses and daffodils will force their way through the thawing ground, and it will be spring at last. Continue reading
What a lovely weekend. First off, I got to stay home for most of the weekend, a rarity these days. The sun came out bright and shiny on Sunday. We got to enjoy Sunday morning in bed listening to our BBC Radio Drama, The Archers, and eating migas breakfast tacos (one of the most perfect breakfasts EVER). But the best thing about this weekend was that we hosted our very first house concert/potluck ever with the remarkable Michigan artist, Joshua Davis. Continue reading
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.