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Cook Happy Project Week Six

Hello!

We’ve made it through another week. And sometimes that is a legitimate accomplishment, is it not? 

I join the rest of the globe in mourning the death of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, author, and mindfulness master. A friend shared this article with me about how he continues to be a powerful teacher in modeling how to die, to let go, to relinquish the illusion of control. He continued to savor life even after he suffered a massive stroke and his health significantly declined. There is power in that. I think about how the God of my understanding intended him to live each and every one of those days with limited cognitive functioning, and how he demonstrated great humility in enduring that.

I find it takes much courage and discipline just to be present in the here and now. I catch myself exiting the present moment in a million, fidgety ways, from chewing gum to pacing to popping in earbuds … But cooking and baking in the comfort of my own kitchen centers and grounds me in a way that many other activities can’t.

This week I found my zen sweet spot grating sweet potatoes for a sweet potato pone, and pressing water out of, then cubing, a slab of tofu for “Baked Tofu With Green Beans, Shiitakes, and Peanut Sauce,” a recipe from the book School Night: Dinner Solutions for Every Day of the Week. Slicing, pressing, peeling my way to peace of mind …

Unlike last week, when I savored all things familiar, experimenting with these two dishes allows me to expand my culinary horizons. I am interested in building a bigger repertoire of healthy, high-protein vegetarian meals, as I find myself, in my newfound singledom, veering away from cooking with meat. (In the past, I have enjoyed scrambling tofu like eggs and serving it with this easy stir-fry recipe. Highly recommend!)

As for the pone, I have always been attracted to Southern cooking and would love to learn more where that came from. Despite the fact that I live in Missouri, the South seems far removed, even foreign to me, which makes whipping together a pone as novel to me as baking something markedly French, such as croissants or a quiche Lorraine. (Note: Pones are much easier!) 

I hope you find a bit of inspiration from these two easy, nutrient-dense meals. That might include the revelation that dousing roasted vegetables in a simple peanut sauce can make even shiitake mushrooms and tofu palatable to younger eaters. Or that swapping your morning bowl of cereal with a slab of sweet potato pone, topped with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, is the kind of simple pleasure that kickstarts a cold winter’s day, counteracting the daily doldrums. And of course, I hope you can find a path to stillness throughout the coming week, pausing within the busyness to ground yourself in the here and now. 

Cheers to eating mindfully and living wakefully.

Love,
Ginger 

Baked Tofu With Green Beans, Shiitakes & Peanut Sauce 
Adapted from School Night: Dinner Solutions for Every Day of the Week 

Main Ingredients
1 lb extra-firm tofu, drained
⅓ cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 heaping teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ lb (12 oz) green beans, trimmed and washed
½ lb (8 oz) shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Peanut Sauce Ingredients
6 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
¼ cup hot water

Instructions 

  1. Drain the tofu: Place 3 paper towels on a plate; top with the tofu. Place 3 additional paper towels on top of the tofu and top with something heavy, like a cast iron skillet. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Change the paper towels and repeat for 5 more minutes. (It’s important to remove extra moisture so the tofu will caramelize in the oven! And it’s definitely worth it to buy the extra-firm kind.) Cube the tofu into uniform bite-size squares. 
  2. Grate the ginger, mince the garlic, and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, and whisk to combine. Wipe clean and slice your shiitake mushrooms. Carefully fold in the tofu pieces, green beans, and mushrooms into the bowl with the sauce. Gently toss to cover everything in the marinade. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the tofu, beans, and mushrooms in a single layer andd roast for approximately 30 minutes, until the tofu is caramelized and the vegetables are fork-tender. 
  4. Make the peanut sauce while the tofu and vegetables are roasting. Simply combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
  5. Drizzle sauce over tofu-vegetable mixture to serve, and enjoy 🙂

Sweet Potato Pone
Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients
Baking spray or butter for greasing the pan
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
⅓ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
3 large eggs, beaten
½ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus 3 tablespoons juice (from about ½ orange)
6 cups peeled and grated sweet potatoes (approximately 3 medium potatoes)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, and molasses with a spatula, or better yet, a spurtle
  3. Add the eggs, half-and-half, and vanilla extract, and stir to combine once more.
  4. Add the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg; stir everything once again. 
  5. Add the orange zest and juice, then fold in the grated sweet potatoes. 
  6. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for approximately 40 minutes. 
  7. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is caramelized and set. 
  8. Serve topped with homemade whipped cream 🙂

Homemade Whipped Cream
Adapted from the Food Network 

Ingredients 
1 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

  1. Place a super clean mixing bowl in the freezer to chill for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Beat the half-and-half and confectioners’ sugar together in the bowl for approximately 2 minutes, until stiff peaks form.

Cook Happy Project Week Four

Hello there. How was your week?

I came home Wednesday night from a week’s vacation in Fort Lauderdale with a good friend. It was my first trip as a single woman in 11 years, a bold act of self-love, if I may say so.

During my time on the beach and resting in the Airbnb I revisited the book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, a beautiful explanation of Buddhist principles by Pema Chodron. I typically resist rereading books (there’s so many books out there to be read!) but I found it richly rewarding and tremendously worthwhile to review teachings that, as they say in the rooms of recovery, are “simple but not easy.”

It was gratifying to realize that what were once abstract concepts to me, like grasping at straws, are now a tangible part of my daily life. Because they have to be. Sitting with uncomfortable feelings, acknowledging painful emotions and  thoughts as a natural part of the human experience. Practicing self-compassion, which then extends outward into gentleness with others. Breathing suffering in, mine and others’, breathing out love and positivity (a technique called “Tonglen”).

Now that I’ve returned to my home kitchen, I am motivated to load up on the veggies and start my day with yet another sweet bread, this time filled with cranberries, pecans, and orange zest and juice. It amazes me that I could easily consume two entire heads of broccoli when it’s roasted at a high temperature with olive oil, salt, pepper, a little lemon juice, minced garlic, and topped with a light drizzle of Tahini paste. (Note: the Tahini adds quite a nutty flavor, and the broccoli is just as good without it. It’s a nice variation, though, worth giving a try.) 

I return to Ina Garten’s roasted onion recipe again and again—a tasty (and cheap) way to use up the onion stragglers in your fridge drawer and a rather elegant side dish in its simplicity.

I snagged a Food Network magazine at the airport and found a recipe for maple-braised carrots, another simple side that involves plenty of cathartic chopping. 

And finally, my trip included a tasty Cuban meal filled with garlic-roasted shrimp, buttery toast and mango butter, as well as lip-smacking roasted sweet plantains from an empanada stand, followed up by Jamaican patties filled with spicy beef. But it is January after all. So I’m keeping it festive (and easy!) with the aforementioned cranberry bread, which comes together with a spatula in one large mixing bowl.

Thank you for following my ramblings. Read on for my version of the recipes.

With Love,
Ginger

Roasted Broccoli with Tahini Paste
Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients
Two small heads broccoli
Extra-virgin olive oil
Three garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and pepper
Lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
Tahini sauce

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Stem broccoli; cut into small florets. Mince garlic. Spread on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Toss the broccoli and garlic with several generous glugs of olive oil, a few pinches of kosher salt, black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. (Feel free to add a pinch of red pepper flakes if the spirit moves you.)
  • Roast in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, allowing broccoli to caramelize. Don’t worry if the garlic turns brown.
  • Coat a metal spoon with Tahini and drizzle (or “flick”) over the roasted broccoli.

Roasted Onions
Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients
6 small-ish yellow onions
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon whatever fresh or dried herbs you have on hand (I used sage)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Peel and quarter each onion, slicing the quarters in half and then separating the layers into a large bowl. Mince the garlic.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, minced garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Pour the extra-virgin olive oil into a one-cup glass liquid measuring cup and slowly whisk into the other ingredients.
  • Pour the dressing over the onions and toss well to coat.
  • Dump the onions onto a large sheet pan lined with foil and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and caramelized. Sprinkle with any remaining fresh herbs you’d like to use. Enjoy!

Maple-Braised Carrots
Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs carrots (Approximately 8 large carrots)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Zest of half a lemon
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
Any fresh herbs you want to top with (such as parsley or chives)

Instructions

  • Trim and peel all the carrots. Slice lengthwise, then halve the lengths and cut into large chunks.
  • Peel and grate a 2-3 inch piece of ginger root on a microplane, until you have about 2 teaspoons.
  • Zest the lemon and measure out your other ingredients.
  • Melt the unsalted butter over medium-high heat on a large cast iron skillet and add the grated ginger for 30 seconds. Add the carrots, maple syrup, lemon zest, salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then cover (with a large tray if nothing else) and simmer, covered, for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Top with extra salt, if needed, and any fresh herbs you’d like.

Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup pecan pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
2 medium-to-large oranges
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 to 2/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups frozen cranberries
2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a standard 6-cup loaf pan.
  • Toast the pecan pieces in a dry skillet over medium heat, approximately 4-5 minutes, until warm and fragrant. Microwave the butter in a glass bowl and allow it to cool.
  • Dump the cup of granulated sugar into a large mixing bowl. Zest both oranges using a microplane and rub zest into sugar with your fingers to allow the flavors to release.
  • Juice the two oranges into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup; add as much sour cream as needed to allow the contents to reach the 1-cup line.
  • Stir the cooled melted butter into the sugar-zest mixture, as well as the egg.
  • Add the orange juice/sour cream mixture.
  • Sprinkle the salt, baking powder, and baking soda into the bowl; stir to combine.
  • Fold in the nuts and cranberries.
  • Add the 2 cups flour and stir until just mixed.
  • Transfer batter into the loaf pan and bake for approximately one hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Craftivism, Sidewalk Chalk, and Soup

I was recently listening to a podcast about women and creativity. The guest, who was interviewed about her efforts re homemaking and all things domestic, said something to this effect: “Get out your cauldron and make that witch’s brew!”

Hell yes!

I am working on (or more accurately, actively avoiding) a book project related to race and education in the United States. The eruption of Black Lives Matter protests across the country and the redirection of the national media spotlight on long-neglected issues of systemic racism has somewhat paralyzed me. Well, I’ve sent a few emails. Arranged some interviews.

I’m honestly so… exhausted. I think of Eliza DooLittle in My Fair Lady: “Words, words, words; I’m so sick of words!”

There’s a saying, “The briefest sermon never ends.”

Some are interjecting their voices via cross stitch. @pixeledstitching sells these for $25 dedicated toward Communities United Against Police Brutality:

Craftivism

Others are using sidewalk chalk:

Sidewalk Chalk

About that witch’s brew… there’s a Rumi poem called Say Yes Quickly with two lines that encapsulate my feelings about making a bright green pot of vegetable soup:

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about.

Simply follow directions and you’ll make some pretty pictures:

Brew 1

Brew 2

Brew 3

Brew 4

And another line,

“If you’ve opened your loving to God’s love,
you’re helping people you don’t know
and have never seen.”

The recipe below for pea, bacon, & mint soup, featuring many of the same ingredients as Ina’s but with the addition of a little meat flavoring, channels the spirit of my great grandmother. It does nothing for the world but fill your house with the smell of bacon and love.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz bacon slices, chopped coarsely
  • 1 medium leek, sliced thinly
  • 1 stalk celery, trimmed, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) peas, rinsed, drained
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook bacon, leek, celery and garlic, stirring until onion softens and bacon is browned lightly.

Step One Recipe

Add peas, broth, the water and mint to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Step Two Recipe

Blend soup (ideally with an immersion blender.) Season to taste. Serve with a sprig of mint and a drizzle of oil.

Bacon Pea Soup

 

Corona Cooking: Roasted Vegetables Over Polenta

Corona Cooking: Roasted Vegetables Over Polenta

How are you feeling today? I’m keenly aware that I am taking a privileged walk through this global pandemic… and yet I often find myself seized by a vague melancholy borne of solidarity with those who are suffering, the surreal vibe of this whole thing, and the uncertainty of what is yet to come.

I’m sure there is a great deal more I could be doing for the world, but last night I went back to basics and took care of myself and my husband with a soothing bowl of fontina-flavored polenta and roasted veggies. I fight the idea, but caring for me and mine CAN be enough on a Saturday night during these difficult times. At times, it may be the best thing we can do to hunker down and make a satisfying meal. Let’s get to it:

Roasted Veggie Ingredients

  • Veggies (I used two small butternut squash and a pile of Brussels sprouts, but go for what you’ve got on hand — broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips… hmm…)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt (preferably Kosher salt or sea salt)
  • Pepper

Instructions

  • Chop the veggies into chunks
  • Plop into a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper
  • Mix with 3 parts olive oil to 1 part Balsamic vinegar
  • Pour on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper
  • Roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until browned and cooked through, 20-25 minutes

It’s a beautiful transformation… Raw veggies with some seasoning:

Raw Squash

Brussels Sprouts

Become better versions of themselves… roasted!

Roasted veggies

Polenta Ingredients

  • One cup loose polenta
  • One Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Small wedge of cheese, shredded (I used Fontina, but go at it, Asiago, cheddar, even dollops of goat cheese would be tasty)
  • A few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
  • 5 cups water

This is what we’re looking at, minus the water:

Polenta prep

Polenta Instructions

  • Bring water to a boil
  • Add polenta, stir, bring back to a boil
  • Turn heat on low and simmer and cook, stirring often, for 40 min (yes this is a dinner to linger over)
  • Mix in cheeses and butter at end once polenta is already cooked

Combine all in a bowl, throw a chopped fresh herb on top, and you get a version of this, courtesy of School Night cookbook:

Cookbook pic

Once you purchase (or find) a container of loose polenta, let your creativity take the reigns and repeat with different veggies or try serving with protein… something in the red meat department would appeal to me…

We capped off this quiet evening with a trip to Forest Park and took comfort in this view: Forest Park view

Peace.

Easy Cooked Carrot Recipes

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When a student told me that my tupperware container of balsamic roasted baby carrots looked like dead fingers, it was exactly what I needed to stop forcing forkfuls of the overwhelmingly sour, otherwise flavorless “fingers” down my gob.

We wasted a few more minutes of my plan time and his brief break from in-school-suspension talking about why he didn’t eat cooked vegetables, and then I made a trip to the vending machine. I think I ended up with a Kit Kat. 

I’m a big fan of Cristina Ferrare’s cookbook, Big Bowl of Love, but I’m not crazy about her penchant for drizzling roasted vegetables with reduced balsamic vinegar. Maybe I’m doing it wrong? You tell me. Not reducing the vinegar enough to sweeten it? Dumping instead of drizzling? Seriously, I want to be classy and drizzle a balsamic vinegar reduction over my vegetables… But the dead carrot finger experiment was off putting. 

Anyway, I can go through cooked vegetables like candy because they taste so sweet and buttery after cooking. Here is Ferrare’s cooking method, minus the balsamic glaze: 

Blistered Baby Carrots

  • Heat a LARGE frying pan over medium high heat. 
  • Scoop out a sizable chunk of ghee (clarified butter — it doesn’t burn at higher temperatures) and swirl to coat the pan. 
  • Shake in the whole bag of baby carrots and season generously with salt and pepper. Make sure all the carrots are lightly coated in butter. Add more butter if necessary 🙂 
  • Cook until the carrots get a little char on them, and feel crisp-tender. 
  • Chop some fresh dill and sprinkle on top. 

Bonus: this recipe is Whole30 compliant! 

Speaking of kid-friendlier toppings for roasted vegetables that I can fully endorse, my new “jam” (a parent kept using that word during conferences about her daughter’s interests, it’s on my mind :)) is a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

These Parmesan roasted carrots are as lip-smacking to me as French fries. (I recommend halving the bigger carrots.) Roasting a large bag of large carrots whole feels refreshingly resourceful to me — bags of large carrots often linger in my vegetable drawer, and the good thing about roasting vegetables, ahem, is that you can work with the slightly shriveled, spotted stuff. The Parmesan precludes these from Whole30 compliance, but it’s a wholesome cheat… Just a sprinkle 🙂 

Next I want to try Parmesan on zucchini wedges. 

Meanwhile, I’m on the hunt for a low calorie veggie dip that isn’t mustard and isn’t guacamole… Any tips??

Flank Steak, Mushroom, Arugula Pasta

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 9.03.05 PM

My favorite thing about being finished with the Whole30 is being able to cook in bulk, a few times a week, instead of an ongoing rotation of chopping and dishwashing. So far what that’s meant for me and my husband Padraic has been pasta salads full of veggies and protein. Tonight I tried a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Pasta that’s a real keeper. Tasty, filling, healthy… Here it is, adapted by yours truly:

Flank Steak Pasta

  • Mince 1 large clove garlic and mix it with 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence. 
  • Sprinkle this mixture on both sides of 1 lb flank steak and let the steak sit at room temp while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  • Chop a bunch of arugula into 2 cups. 
  • Chop 1 lb of mushrooms into small pieces. (Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel — if you rinse them under running water they’ll become rubbery).
  • Whisk together 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup julienned basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 3/4 cup olive oil. Set aside.
  • Slice the flank steak into 1/2-inch slices. 
  • Coat a large skillet with olive oil and warm over medium heat.
  • Cook several slices of flank steak at a time, about 4 min on each side. 
  • Bring salted water to a boil in a big pot.
  • Cook 1 lb penne pasta for about 9 minutes (al dente) and drain in a colander, reserving some of the pasta water in a bowl underneath the colander.
  • Add some more olive oil to the skillet, add the mushroom pieces, sprinkle with salt, and cook for 4-5 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, cut the flank steak strips into bite-sized pieces.
  • Dump the cooked pasta into a large bowl. Add the arugula, the cooked mushrooms, the steak pieces, the dressing, and a generous pour of the pasta water. Mix thoroughly with a spatula.

Enjoy!

 

Eating The Veggies: Two More Recipes

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Green beans aren’t my favorite vegetable, so I’m always grateful when I find a recipe that makes them more flavorful. This Ina Garten recipe combining chunks of red onion and colored bell peppers with the beans manages that, as does the following recipe adapted from the Whole30 cookbook. In Eating The Veggies I posted a few too many potato recipes, in my opinion, so here’s some good ole green stuff:

Green Beans with Onions, Mushrooms, and Peppers

  • Heat a large pot with water and 2 tablespoons Kosher salt over high heat. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl and stick it in the fridge to keep it cool.
  • Once the water boils, blanche 1 pound green beans for 20 seconds, then immediately plunge them into the ice water bath for about 1 minute, and then drain in a colander.
  • Heat some cooking fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat — I used a combination ghee butter and olive oil (disclaimer — cooking with olive oil is technically against the Whole30. Oh well.) Fill the skillet with 1/2 to 1 onion, red or yellow, sliced into thick rings. Let the onions soften and become translucent, maybe caramelize a little.
  • Add 8 oz sliced mushrooms and start to soften them, adding more olive oil if necessary.
  • As the mushrooms continue to soften, add 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips and let it soften with the mushrooms.
  • Add the green beans to the skillet for a few seconds and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Oh, and this celery salad

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 11.34.25 AM

Eating The Veggies

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As I mentioned in Chicken with Coconut Curry, I’ve been more or less on the Whole30  for the past 21 days. I’m still putting off the post when I explain my take-aways from the book It Starts With Food and the documentary Fed Up. It’s just easier and less overwhelming to share my favorite recipes with you.

But first…

On Day 21, let me say this… one of my cheats is that I’ve weighed myself regularly on my Whole30. I’ve only lost 3.5 pounds across 3 weeks. I lost all of it the first week and then plateaued. This majorly underwhelms me. It disappoints me. It discourages me. But Whole30 emphasizes “Non Scale Victories,” and I’ve experienced many of these: Increased energy. An increased feeling of control over food, that I’m not merely subject to my sugar or junk food cravings. Feeling better in my clothes. Less inflammation — my wedding ring slips off easy when I take a shower or wash the dishes or sink my hands into yet another bowl of ground meat, because lord knows, we’re eating a lot of it… The pleasure and discipline of cooking a lot, and cooking clean… The pleasure of a “clean full” feeling… The pleasure that comes from shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and presenting your checker with piles of produce… Which helps with the evolving notion that I am not only “trying to healthy,” but in fact, I am a “healthy eater,” that healthy eating habits aren’t just something I do, but in theory, a growing part of my identity, a concept that Melissa Hartwig shares in this fascinating video about how her struggles with drug addiction have helped shape the outlook that defines the Whole30. Enjoying how sweet fruit tastes…

So it’s been… productive. On the flip side, my husband, who actually needs to gain  weight, has effortlessly shed five pounds, even though he eats an extra helping of white potatoes every meal. So I’m wondering if this is the healthiest thing for him…

Bringing it back to the veggies… Here are a few veggie recipes that I will definitely keep making post-Whole30 because they are delish and doable. I hope you will give all of these recipes a try:

Roasted Onions & Cauliflower

  • To make this Whole30 compliant, I omitted the Parmesan cheese and substituted ghee butter for olive oil (which I would probably still do, post Whole30, because of butter’s rich flavor. If you use butter to flavor the veggies, I don’t really think you need the cheese).

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • Again, substitute ghee for olive oil if you want. I also recommend washing the sweet potatoes but not peeling them. I think they get a little crispier that way. These are especially delicious when dipped in some Dijon mustard.

Padraic’s Potatoes

  • Cube some Yukon gold potatoes.
  • Boil the bite-sized cubes for 10 minutes.
  • Roast with some cooking fat, salt, pepper and fresh or dried herbs of your choice for 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside 🙂

Vegetable Hash, School Night

  • Add some cooking fat to a frying pan over medium high heat.
  • Let 1 yellow onion, chopped and 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cubed into bite-sized pieces sauté until the potatoes are golden brown and soft, about 12 minutes.
  • Add 2 cloves garlic, minced and cook about 2 minutes longer.
  • Transfer the contents of the frying pan to a bowl.
  • Do not wipe the pan clean; add more cooking fat. Over medium-high heat, cook 1/2 lb mushrooms, seasoned with salt and pepper. This takes about 4 minutes — you want the mushrooms to be soft and deep in color. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to the same bowl with the other ingredients.
  • Again, do not wipe the pan clean; add some more cooking fat and add 2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. This takes about 4 minutes — you want the vegetables to soften. Add this batch to the bowl-in-waiting and season with 3 tablespoons fresh thyme and a little extra salt and pepper.

 

 

“Healthy Dish of the Day”

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 10.56.45 AMA cheesy frittata packed with spinach, a pea salad dotted with pieces of feta and mint — two of my favorite dishes from “Healthy Dish of the Day: 365 Recipes for Every Day of the Year,” a Williams Sonoma cookbook by Kate McMillan. It’s a book for celebrating the seasons, for embracing the variety and abundance of seasonal produce and the color and vibrance of healthy cooking.

In addition to “seasonal vegetables,” the introduction proclaims an emphasis on “lean proteins… whole grains and good fats…” Each month’s recipes start with a calendar of meals, accompanied by a brief explanation of reoccurring themes and ingredients for the season. In my view, the calendar would be far more useful if it was organized around using up ingredients in successive recipes. Instead, it’s a way to whet your appetite at a glance, with each day’s dish calling for its own separate set of fresh, aka expensive ingredients. Take the first and second of March — a “spicy vegetable hash” calling for both sweet and Yukon gold potatoes, jalapeño pepper, plain yogurt, lime wedges and fresh cilantro, among other things, right next to “stir-fried pork and sugar snaps with soba noodles,” requiring Asian sauces/vinegars/oils, green onions and fresh ginger in addition to the title ingredients. Especially with the emphasis on fresh ingredients, you’d think Ms. McMillan would repeat more of them and organize the meal plan accordingly. Then again, it does bear the Williams Sonoma brand, so frugality may not be a fair expectation 🙂

That said, the monthly calendars can just as easily be used as a source of inspiration for ingredients to try. Say you’re visiting your local farmer’s market in March. A quick peek at the March spread might nudge you toward more generous helpings of swiss chard or fava beans, as opposed to that helpless feeling when confronted with large quantities of fleeting, seasonal produce. The large amount of recipes — it’s practically a tome — means that every five or six suppers receive their own full page photograph, which makes perfect sense but is still a little disappointing, in this digital age where food blogs display ten or twelve process photos for a single recipe. You can’t help but gravitate toward the dishes that are photographed. On the plus side, each recipe is accompanied by a note that either summarizes the essence of the dish — “fluffy ricotta-and-artichoke-stuffed ravioli sit in a pool of light, fragrant vegetable broth” — expounds on its nutritional value, provides historical context or suggested variations.

Here’s a brief sampling of each month’s themes and ingredients:

January

The emphasis is on root vegetables and “warming spices, such as turmeric, cayenne, curry paste and red pepper flakes.” Traditional comfort foods are made healthier with alternate cooking techniques, such as pan-searing instead of frying, and the abundant use of rich and creamy vegetables. As you might imagine, stews and soups are a natural way to create healthy food out of comfort food: A version of minestrone uses extra vegetables and low-sodium chicken broth, and “Asian-Style Chicken Soup” transforms your basic chicken noodle into something greener, spicier and more piquant. A vegetarian cassoulet replaces the traditional pork and breadcrumb mixture with meaty mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, beans, celery, carrots and potatoes.

February

McMillan encourages the reader to infuse winter dishes with color and fresh produce, and to pay attention to the flavor enhancing properties of sauces and garnishes. Winter’s inclination toward meat and potatoes is acknowledged, but the protein and carbs are lean — scallops, salmon, lentils eggs, quinoa, barley and whole-wheat penne. I’m especially keen to try the “Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa” and the “Roasted Salmon with Avocado-Grapefruit Salsa.” Oh, and “Broccoli Rabe and Olive Pizza.” Oh, and “Cauliflower Steaks with Caper-Anchovy-Garlic Sauce.” Okay, I’ll leave it at that.

March

The March dishes place spring’s green produce center stage — asparagus, snow peas, arugula…the list goes on. A platter of grilled endive and asparagus, boiled fava beans and orange slices tossed with orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper is an unusual, textured take on a spring salad. On March 31st, McMillan tosses blanched asparagus, baby carrots and sugar snap peas with angel hair pasta, tomatoes, fava beans and Parmesan cheese.

April

The emphasis on green, seasonal produce continues, alongside grilled meats and spring herbs like dill and chives. “Roasted Asparagus Farrotto” takes the nutty, magnesium-rich grain farro and cooks it (with olive oil and balsamic vinegar roasted asparagus) in the style of risotto. Here’s the pea salad whose praises I was singing earlier:

 Pea, Feta & Mint Salad

3 cups shelled English peas
2 T. olive oil
2 T. minced fresh mint
Salt and pepper
1 T. red wine vinegar
3 oz crumbled Feta cheese

1) Blanch the peas for 1-2 minutes in a pot of rapidly boiling, lightly salted water. Immediately transfer them to an ice water bath. Drain and pat them dry.

2) Toss the blanched peas with the olive oil, mint, 1/2 tsp. salt and a crackling of pepper. Just before serving add the vinegar and the cheese.

May

May celebrates lighter, al fresco dining — think salads, fish, grilled pizzas. Polenta is also frequently used as a foil for spring veggies: on May 1st, McMillan braises artichokes and serves them with shallots, peas and fresh herbs over a bed of polenta. On the 29th, she roasts asparagus and cherry tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese, accompanied by wedges of grilled polenta. Apparently polenta contains “cartenoids,” which is good for your eyes and heart.

June

June presents simple combinations of fresh summer vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. I’m into the June 15th salad that mixes roasted peppers, eggplant and zucchini with goat cheese and crisp red leaf lettuce. And the idea of grilling whole wheat pizza dough and topping it with nothing more than a simple salad of mixed greens, sliced plum tomatoes and parmesan shavings. Or on June 27th, brining pork chops in cider vinegar, brown sugar, berries and red pepper flakes and serving it with grilled plums, peaches and nectarines.

July

Corn and tomatoes get their due in July — tomato and arugula frittatas, scallops with avocado-corn salsa, smoky grilled chicken and corn, tomato and bean salads with toasted bread crumbs… McMillan also suggests grilling traditional summer dishes to vary flavors — for example, “Ratatouille on the Grill.”

August

“Vine vegetables” are recycled throughout the month, such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. For example, eggplant is broiled and puréed with Greek yogurt, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, mint, salt and pepper, then spread across grilled Naan and topped with grilled red onions. On the 22nd, zucchini and peppers are julienned and sautéed, then served with buckwheat fettuccine, melted goat cheese and fresh herbs.

September

More tomatoes and zucchini, and a transition into fall with light soups and stews. A grilled portabello burger with tomato-ginger jam and sautéed red onions looks particularly scrumptious.

October

This month’s meals emphasize the expected assortment of fall produce such as pears, apples and butternut squash showcased via more pastas and whole grains. For example, there’s a roasted butternut squash whole-wheat pizza with goat cheese, Parmesan and arugula, and a whole-wheat flat bread with caramelized shallots, Monterey jack cheese and thin slices of grilled chicken and raw apple. Here’s the recipe for the spinach frittata:

Frittata with Spinach, Roasted Peppers & Gruyère 

8 large eggs
2 T. low-fat milk
Salt and pepper
2 cups baby spinach
2 olive-oil packed roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (or a cup fresh)
1/4 cup shredded Gruyère
1 T. unsalted butter
2 T. olive oil
2 T. finely chopped yellow onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh chives
1 tsp. fresh parsley

1) Whisk together the eggs, milk, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add the spinach, peppers and cheese.

2) Preheat the broiler. Meanwhile, melt the butter and oil in a 12-inch ovenproof frying pan. Over medium-high heat, sauté the onion for 2-3 minutes and the garlic for an additional minute.

3) Pour in the egg mixture, reduce heat to low and cook until the edges are firm, about 4-5 minutes. Lift the edges with a spatula, tilt the pan and let the uncooked eggs run beneath. Cook 4-5 minutes longer, until the eggs are almost set.

4) Broil the eggs for about 2 minutes, until the top sets and browns slightly. Transfer the baked frittata to a flat serving plate and sprinkle with the fresh herbs. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temp.

November

For heartier, fall fare, more protein is mixed in during November, such as turkey, pork and lamb. Star produce items include cranberries, pumpkin and dark greens. For example, on the 29th, McMillan stir-fries lamb with broccoli and mushrooms and on the 25th, she fries chard, eggs and polenta in olive oil and tops them with a yogurt garlic sauce. But even in November, the produce has a fresh, crunchy flair, including an apple-jicama relish for “Pulled Chicken Sliders” and a pineapple-avocado salsa for Mahimahi.

December

McMillan suggests lightening the rich foods of the holidays by using olive oil as a substitute for butter and root vegetables (again) as complex carbohydrates. In addition, whole grains pepper the menu, such as “Spaghetti with Collard Greens, Hazelnuts and Caramelized Onions” and “Kale, Turkey Sausage and Barley Stew.” I’m also drawn to a dish of seared scallops garnished with shredded brussels sprouts and prosciutto.

The great thing about cooking with so many vegetables is that most of these meals can be enjoyed year round, even though it’s ideal to enjoy produce at its peak. I made the October frittata this spring. Happy eating, and healthy cooking 🙂

Something Simple

Alice Henneman Eggplant CC BY 2.0How shall I describe this roasted eggplant salad — it’s meaty and succulent, with big chunks of sweet eggplant, and it’s got bite, with tangy touches, including pickled red onions, diced feta, and a swig of red wine vinegar.

I wanted to write another post about Teacher Wars, the new book about the history of the teaching profession by Dana Goldstein that I just finished, but the lazy writer in me is having an easier time finding words for roasted eggplant.

What can I say — the history of teaching is intricate, enigmatic, and cyclical, with many of the same debates being tossed around for decades, and many of the same ineffective policies being stubbornly reinstituted in the name of innovation.

Roasted eggplant salad, on the other hand, is just plain good. There’s a saying that we write to experience life twice, which is especially apt for food blogging, I think. Here’s the recipe, adapted from Smitten Kitchen:

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants or 6 small, Japanese eggplants, cut into bite size chunks
4 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup diced feta
1/2 cup pickled red onions*

Tools

Large mixing bowl
Spatula
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Sheet pan

*To pickle the red onion, dice half a medium red onion and place the pieces in 1/4 cup cold water mixed with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Drain it when you’re ready to add the pickled onions to the roasted eggplant.

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Combine the eggplant, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Spread the eggplant evenly on a sheet pan and roast it in the oven for about 25 minutes.
  • Remove the roasted eggplant from the sheet pan and allow it to cool in a large bowl… such as the bowl you started with. Then add the remaining ingredients. Eat with a fork or enjoy on top of toasted bread, rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil.
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