Archives for category: Food and Drink

One of the surest signs that I’m back from the dead (aka first trimester) is that I’m thinking about cooking again. The last thing I cooked was Havana Beans on August 11th. This is astounding to me considering that before then I cooked the better part of three meals a day, seven days a week, mostly from scratch.

Aside from making buttered toast and more recently an occasional hot ham and cheese sandwich, I cooked nothing. Even thinking about the kitchen made me nauseated and opening the fridge would bring on guaranteed gagging fits – or worse.

But not anymore! While I still have strong food aversions (raw meat – ugh!) I am beginning to think about cooking again and have a desire to search out recipes that will nourish my ever growing hunger, help our hurting pocketbook, and not offend my nose.

First on the docket? Granola. I always crave granola in the autumn and there is nothing offensive in the ingredient list. I base my granola on this recipe that I believe I found through Mark Bittman years ago. It is healthy-ish,  easy to make, and easy to sub in things you have for things you don’t have. Plus it tastes decadent and rich and so autumnal. Note: Isn’t autumnal a wonderful word?

Crunchy Mama Granola

3 cups oats

1 1/2 cups almonds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw coconut shavings

3/4 cup real maple syrup

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)

3/4 cup dried fruit – apricots, raisins, cherries, cranberries or a mix

Preheat oven to 300. Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl. Make sure to stir thoroughly until all ingredients are moist. Dump out on a large rimmed baking sheet and spread smooth. Bake for 45 minutes, but make sure to stir it every 10 minutes or so. The stirring takes up that extra 5 minutes so it’s really only baking for 40. After it is done baking, pour it into a bowl and stir in the dried fruit. After cooling you can store it in a glass jar or leftover dish or a ziplock bag. Serve it as a cereal with milk – I use almond milk – or you can serve with yogurt although I’m not a granola/yogurt fan.

For this batch I chose raisins as chewing the apricots would probably make me gag and cherries are expensive. I’ve always used olive oil, but I’d like to try coconut oil sometime. And I have cardamom seeds, but I didn’t feel up to grinding them so I skipped it although that flavor is an awesome addition.

Do you have a go-to autumnal breakfast? When you were pregnant, did you have a hard time cooking? 

I’ve spoken with people who say they no longer use cookbooks because they can get everything they need on the internet. I guess it’s true that many recipes are now available online, and I definitely get my fair share of ideas from blogs or epicurious.com, however, I have not given up on cookbooks yet. In fact, I’m buying them with greater frequency than ever before. I find that cookbooks still have something over online recipes – namely they are curated and organized by a cook with a reputation to keep because they now have a book that needs to be sold. I find this makes cookbooks invaluable.  I do count cookbooks I’ve read in my list of books each year because I usually read them cover to cover. I have the classic Joy of Cooking and a few that are highly specialized. But here is a roundup of my favorite cookbooks and what dishes I make from them.

 

cookbook1

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. This is my new go-to cookbook. The premise is that every family can swing family dinners and this book is full of doable, absolutely delicious family dinners. Here are some of the meals we have loved:

  • Black Bean Burritos
  • Royal Salmon with Yogurt-Mustard-Dill Sauce
  • Backpocket Tacos
  • Fish Cakes
  • Yogurt-marinated Grilled Chicken – seriously the best grilled chicken ever!!!
  • Roasted Veggies and Polenta
  • Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin
  • Apricot-Mustard Baked Chicken
  • Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks

 

cookbook2

Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. This book is full of the just-this-side-of-normal recipes I tend to love. It’s vegetarian without yelling it from the rooftops which conveniently makes vegetarian seem that much more doable. We have loved so many of these recipes for their complex flavors but simple preparation. Here’s our favorites:

  • Weeknight Curry – we all adore this curry and it’s endlessly versatile
  • White Beans & Cabbage
  • Summer Linguine
  • Chickpea Wraps
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Cauliflower Soup

 

cookbook3

The Whole Foods Market CookbookThis was my go-to cookbook for a couple years until Dinner: A Love Story came on the scene and I still use it a lot. The downside to these recipes is that they tend to be ingredient-heavy. The upside is that it’s very easy to substitute in what you have or make adjustments if you don’t want to hunt down that particular vegetable you would only buy for this one dish. There are also helpful lists of how long to cook various grains and beans and things. These are dishes we make from this book:

  • Havana Black Beans
  • Cilantro Lime Rice
  • Quinoa Tabouleh
  • White Bean and Kale Gratin with English Farmhouse Cheddar
  • Smoky Maple Baked Beans
  • Cubano-Style Pork Loin
  • Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade
  • Mardi Gras Jicama Slaw
  • Chicken Breast Piccata Florentine
  • Chicken Toscana with White Beans

Do you use cookbooks? Or have you switched to only online recipes? Do you have favorite cookbooks you use over and over? If so, make sure to share in the comments so I can check it out!

If you look up “Dog Days” in the dictionary I’m pretty sure it says See: Texas in August. These days of soaring temperatures beg for easy cooking that requires no heat. Enter the perfect Summer Meal: a veggie salad and two dips. Pita or some other flat bread would have been a delicious addition, but I haven’t found a good gluten free flat bread.

chopped veggie saladimage from epicurious.com

 I discovered the salad in the early months of our marriage when I would spend my time scouring epicurious for tantalizing new recipes. It says this salad was once breakfast food in Israel and I can attest to the leftovers’ perfect suitability as a breakfast. But first make it for a cooling dinner. This most recent time I nixed the yogurt in the dressing and just added some white wine vinegar to thin it and it worked well. It was a thick dressing, really more of a sauce, but I like it that way.

*****

My “Tirokafteri” is a riff on a dip at Zorba’s, our local Greek place. They make it spicy and I’ve never figured out how to do that, but this is a good enough homemade stand in. I think I may try to find some spicier roasted peppers next time.

1 large log of chèvre (soft goat’s cheese)

2 roasted red peppers

Place both items in your food processor and blend. Yes, it’s that stupid easy.

*****

The Hummus recipe was basically the same as this online version, but I got it from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That. In Dinner: A Love Story she mentioned liking Ina Garten’s books so  I decided to check one out of the Library to scan for new recipes. I ended up bookmarking a ton, but this was the first one I tried. I made it minus the Tobasco because that’s not something I keep on hand. This hummus was much more lemony than I usually make it and I loved it. It reminded me of the Lemon and Artichoke hummus I get at Central Market.

We followed it all up with a trip to get gelato. Perfect.

Do you have any go-to meals for hot summer nights? 

I spent so much time thinking about meal planning this week and I really appreciate all the comments I got on Facebook about how real live women make meal planning work for them.

As I worked through my meal plan and thought about the responses I was able to fine-tune my thoughts and questions a little more. It turns out that the logistics of deciding what to eat each day and planning for that are not the problem here. It wasn’t that I never planned meals, I just did it irregularly and wasn’t planning for all the meals and eventualities that were necessary. What I’m really struggling with is the art of meal planning.

How do you create texture and movement and surprise and focus within your meal plan? Basically, how do you make it a work of art?

How do you make a meal plan that fits dietary, environmental, and social needs? Basically, we need a gluten-free, fair trade, seasonal, organic, pastured, and local food meal plan (listed in order of importance).

And again, how do I do all of that while staying on budget and eating well? It has to taste good and not cost $400 a week!

It would be easy for me to Meal Plan if a) I had a large food budget or b) didn’t care about eating for our dietary needs and in an environmentally and socially conscious way. However, both of those caveats are non-negotiables and they complicate meal planning. I need there to be a large creative component to the meal. I need the meals to satisfy my love of healthy delicious food. I need for meals to fit into real life.

The good news is that I’m beginning to formulate an idea about a system that may work for me. It will be more complicated than the general advice I’ve read, but in the end I think spending some time on it will help me more quickly plan meals that fit our needs: budgetary, dietary, and creative.

My plan will probably include a few parts:

  • an index of meals by main ingredients (I love indexes!!)
  • a list of vegetables and meats with 2-3 ways to prepare them (so I can shop the sales and know I can make a meal out of what’s available)
  • basic week long meal plans that I know work well (so if I’m busy I can just plug it in and go!)
  • room for new recipes
  • a recipe box – I have a notebook and it’s just not working for me

I hope this new system will allow me to include some of the food frugality principles I learned in An Everlasting Meal, while also leaving room for ample creativity. I will never be the woman who picks 14 meals and rotates them – that sounds so boring. I will never be the woman who finds a fabulous new recipe and doesn’t cook it because it wasn’t in the plan – that’s way too rigid. But I think I can become a woman who harnesses the power of planning to help me be better at my job – that sounds just about right.

I updated last week’s menu plan with what really happened. I was please to see that I mostly stuck to the plan!

Do you want to know how to make me cranky? No, but I’ll tell you anyways. Send me to a grocery store, tell me to buy food for my family for the week, give me a limited budget, and tell me it needs to be gluten-free and mostly organic and healthy. Oh and have me do all that without a meal plan or grocery list.

Do you want to know who makes me do this week after week? Me. Myself. And I.

Why do I do this? Because I’m the world’s worst meal planner. I love to cook and I think I’m a pretty good cook, and some weeks I can even manage to pull a string of meals off effortlessly because the sales, schedule and my hormones magically align in harmony. But most weeks it’s more of a disaster.

meal planning

I’ll admit to some hyperbole there, but I really am not good at planning ahead. I work very well in moment-by-moment situations, going with my gut and intuition. Children however do not thrive in those types of situations, especially not my child. There are so many times we arrive at a mealtime with no plan and I freak out because there is so much pressure and not enough time to pull a meal together and we just grab food out or I make a quick dish that doesn’t taste good and I’m grumpy and feel ashamed and lousy. It’s awful.

Over the past few weeks I’ve embarked on some serious reinvention. After a year of surviving I’m ready to start thriving. I’ve started a house cleaning regimen, did a big furniture shuffle, started a new morning routine including exercise, cleaned up my diet with the Whole30 and now I’m working on my nemesis: meal planning.

I’ve done a little reading about the way other people plan. I honestly haven’t found it that helpful because the people who write such things usually do not have my personality so their suggestions don’t fit our lifestyle. I’ve read suggestions about cooking very simply and making the same meals on rotation, but that doesn’t work for me. Cooking flows out of my creativity so I need freedom to try new things, learn new techniques and experiment with flavors. I’ve decided to do what I can and at least schedule some meals, including breakfast and lunch, and see what happens. I can tweak it if this doesn’t work well. The most important thing is to at least have a plan!

On Saturday I grabbed a couple cookbooks at the Library for inspiration (even though I have over a dozen great ones at home). Yesterday I sat down and looked at our calendar for the week, thought about what’s in the fridge and freezer and what special meals we will need and I made a plan.

Update: I hashed through the meals I changed, but basically I kept to the plan and it worked well. 

Monday:

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for the boys
  • Pizza for Nathan and babysitter and sandwich for jason
  • Apricot-Mustard chicken (from Dinner: a Love Story), Mashed Potatoes, and Salad Frozen Corn

Tuesday (Forever Family Day):

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Sandwiches
  • Pasta with Simple Tomato Sauce and Salad Pasta Dinner @ Maggiano’s courtesy of a gift card
  • Mascarpone-filled Cake with chocolate icing from a jar (Inspired by Epicurious Cookbook but with a GF cake mix)

Wednesday (Jason off work)

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Picasso’s (after museum visit – we have a coupon)
  • Fish Cakes (from Dinner: A Love Story) with Tartar Sauce (Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook) and crudités

Thursday (Jason’s Birthday)

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Sandwiches
  • Mustard Salmon, Hasselback Potatoes (both from Nigella’s Forever Summer), and Broccoli

Friday

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Sandwiches
  • Dinner out

Some of these meals are new, but only one meal is from a cookbook I’m unfamiliar with. The others are from a tried and trusted cookbook (Dinner: A Love Story) that we know we will like. I’m excited to try this plan and I’ll give an update about it at the end of the week.

So I’m curious. Do you meal plan? What type of planning works for you? Do you like to eat the same things over and over or do you like to make new recipes?

Weekend Links 2 7.20

Here’s a few of things I read this week that had me nodding my head:

Summer in The City – Heat Proof Makeup Tutorial

Lisa Eldridge is my go-to makeup consultant. I love how authentic and grounded she is and how she leverages her access and influence to help the everywoman feel beautiful. Her heat-proof makeup tutorial from this week was wonderful and I imagine will work well in our 100 degree heat as much as it does in London’s “scorching” 80s.

Lemon Ricotta and Almond Flourless Cake

This is a light lemony flourless cake that will be perfect on a beautiful summer/spring afternoon

When Families Fail Parents of Children with Special Needs

She points to two big reasons family can be out of touch with what a parent needs — good intentions based on decades-old knowledge and, yes, sometimes simply the general inability to be compassionate.

“They do not see all the work, the therapy visits, the doctor visits, the specialists, the research, the cost, the [evaluations], [Individualized Education Plan] meetings, the emotional drain it takes to produce this ‘cute little girl.'”

Ludicrous Things Said By Yoga Teachers

weekend links yoga

Alright Okay

Friends, there has to be a better way.

A better way to support one another when they are walking a painful path.  There has to be a better way to encourage and uplift and love without undoing the brutality of the journey, without negating the reality that for some, it doesn’t get “all better”.

This is about Love.  Support.  Encouragement.

Validation.

She isn’t crazy.  She isn’t neurotic.  She isn’t being ridiculous.

No matter what the outcome turns out to be.

Because it really will eventually be Alright and Okay.  It’s just that Alright and Okay are tricky words whose meanings change depending on the details.

And you want to be there for her in the case that she must navigate a new path to Alright and Okay.

The Importance of Doing Things Badly

God doesn’t hover over us with a hammer. He knows we need the freedom to do things badly. He stands cheering and waiting for the right moment to share His perfectly portioned wisdom.

Confection Deliciosity 2

I saw these Roasted Strawberry and Toasted Coconut Popsicles courtesy of Joy the Baker, and could not get that flavor combination out of my mind. I was in the middle of my Whole30, but I pinned it to remember for after it was over. Dairy is not my friend and Coconut Cream is one of the Seven Wonders of my World so this is perfect.

There is no budget line this month for new kitchen gadgets and I don’t even have an ice cube tray to freeze them in so I decided to make it as an ice cream instead.

Roasted Strawberry and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

I used that recipe except I substituted raw unsweetened coconut because that is what I had and I figured less sugar is always better.

An attempt to turn it into coconut ice cream with a pretty swirl of strawberry did not pan out so I started over, mixing it all together. The color reminds me of one of Nathan’s books which has a recipe for “Zoe’s Tutu Pink Smoothie” which was “too too delicious.”

Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream

There isn’t a lot of added sugar and it’s tangy and toasty and so creamy.

After this success I tried the same formula, but with cherries and almonds instead of strawberries and coconut. It was OK. Meh. It tasted like a jello salad concoction from 1963. I think the lime threw it off in this version. Plus the cherry flavor isn’t as strong and overpowering as strawberries. And the almond extract wasn’t strong enough. I think I’ll play around with that flavor combo and see if I can get it right.

Whole27 edited

Well, today was supposed to be my last day of the Whole30. I was looking forward to crossing that day off my homemade calendar, doing a happy dance, and then having a drink and some ice cream as early the next day as possible.

 

But best laid plans began to crumble a bit last week.

 

I loved how the Whole30 made me feel. I really did get the magic energy they claim it will give you. Not quite tiger blood perhaps, but certainly the toddler mother equivalent.

 

I need all that energy to be a good mom, but the truth is the diet was starting to interfere with my ability to parent well. Cooking from- scratch, compliant meals three times a day for 30 days in a row was hard. And expensive. And time-consuming. I reached a breaking point and no longer felt that doing it up to the bitter end was worth losing my sanity. I was no longer able to use my energy productively in mothering because I was so distracted by how all-consuming the diet was. I do not believe in sticking to a good thing when it’s no longer serving its purpose, so I threw in the towel a couple days early.

 

There are no plans to go hog-wild and eat crazy food. The Whole30 taught me a lot about food formulas that give me energy. I will need to experiment with how to add in less expensive and easier to prepare foods into those formulas, but I can’t imagine abandoning them all together. The before and after pictures are startling. I feel strong, energetic, and beautiful. I did not change sizes or probably lose much weight, but my body regained proportion, my skin is brighter, and I just generally feel wonderful.

 

But, I need to be able to eat a nice (not-fast-food) hamburger without worrying how it was cooked. I need to be able to have a sauce that has added sugar. I need to be able to eat deli meat sometimes. I need to have a restaurant as an option on a crazy day. And I need to be able to have a drink at the end of a long non-holiday-ish holiday.

 

I also have to get my grocery budget under control. This Whole30 was seriously expensive. It worked out OK because we couldn’t eat out or drink alcohol so those budget lines were added to groceries, but even with that it was expensive and not doable long-term.

 

I’m still processing what I learned so I think I’ll post again some further thoughts on the experience when I’ve had time to think a bit more.