Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More news from my kitchen

Like mother, like daughter. I keep shopping and cooking enough to feed a small bear colony. Meanwhile, produce goes rotten before it even gets rotated to the front of the fridge. Leftovers become left-over-over-overs, and then go rotten. Bob's absence, coupled with our changing appetites, has rendered Costco a much less appropriate grocery venue.

It breaks my heart, in some ways, to buy and consume less food, but I really should be thankful. This means I only have to go grocery shopping once a week or less (if I can stop myself!), and recipes hardly need to be doubled. It should feel more simple, yet it is still an adjustment.

To ease in this adjustment, and mostly in an effort to use up those easily-forgotten perishables, I have started meal planning. Since nearly every dinner I make these days is unfamiliar to our family, I've also been taking mediocre photos to pair with recipes in hopes that someday I will compile a recipe filing system superior to my current method of stacking post-it notes in drawers and cupboards. I know, I dream big.

Recipe compilation has been a grueling task. I'm searching for meal ideas that are not only composed almost completely of whole plant foods, but are also palatable to small children, flavorful enough for carnivorous, salt-crazy hubby, and fast and easy enough that I can whip them up one-handed (while holding Char). Also, the ingredients can't be too expensive or remote. And I'd prefer they taste good to me, too. So, almost no recipes work, but I've been clinging to that "almost," diligently excavating the hidden wonders of healthy, satisfying meals from cookbooks and blogs. I've a long way to go, to be sure, but I'm grateful to finally be finding a happy little food niche to make my own.

My goal is to post recipes I've tried recently, along with photos and our family's ratings. Originally I was going to include my own photos. They look like this

and this.

Until I learn how to decorate food and then take a photo that falls short of inducing nausea, I'll leave it to the professionals. I stole the following photos from absolutely anyone with a nicer camera and skills (Is that legal?...). Some of them are not exactly true to my creations, but they probably tasted very similar, just much, much prettier.

With no further ado, I bring you Mama T's breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bonus recipes from November 2-13! (I should warn, in case anyone actually attempts to use any of these recipes, that I am quite a minimalist when it comes to instructions. Sometimes I just omit them completely if they feel they are intuitive. Sorry about that. Also, I very rarely measure anything; the amounts listed probably came from someone else's recipe that I may or may not have followed particularly.) Oh yes, as it pertains to ratings, we'll just go by initials T, El, Er, and Ch, and let's use a scale of 1-3, 1 being a thumbs down, 2 being neutral or of mixed emotion, and 3 being a thumbs up.

Nov 2
Lunch: peanut celery spread on toast, fruit wedges

Peanut Celery Spread
1/3 c natural peanut butter
1 T lemon juice
2 t soy sauce
1 clove garlic
2 T water
1 c celery, minced

T 3, El 3, Er 2, Ch 1

Dinner: Three-layer dip and chips, those layers being hummus, broccamole, and salsa

Pumpkin Hummus
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can pumpkin
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c tahini (sesame seed spread, but you can omit this or use whole sesame seeds, or even natural nut butters have about the same consistency as tahini)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t allspice
salt, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper to taste

My Blendtec was able to smooth this out, but just barely. Food processors probably suit this recipe better. The can of pumpkin really made it creamy and perfect, in my opinion, but if that grosses you out, there are plenty of other tasty hummus varieties, eg roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, jalapeno, etc.

T 3, El 3, Er 3, Ch 3

1-2 avocados
1 large head broccoli, chopped and steamed
2 T red onion
4 cloves garlic
2+ T lime juice
1 T hot pepper sauce
2 T fresh cilantro
salt to taste

I tried blending this, but it proved too thick even for the illustrious Blendtec, so I sadly ended up mincing the broccoli by hand. With a smoother appearance, I believe this would have gone over better with the kiddos.

T 3 (for its ingenious disguise of fresh broccoli while maintaining guacamole taste), El 3, Er 2, Ch 2

Homemade salsa
banana pepper
chili powder
salt and pepper

Pulse in blender (or chop by hand) until chunky to your liking.

T 3, El 3, Er 1, Ch 1

Homemade chips
Cut corn tortillas into four pieces each. Broil 2 min on each side until lightly browned-- warning: 2 min 30 seconds was enough to burn an entire batch!

Nov 3
Dinner: pureed celery/carrot/sweet potato soup with dill biscuits and broccoli salad
-For the soup, I simmered garlic, onion, celery, carrot, sweet potato, other veggies, and generous seasonings in water until tender, and then blend! I added low-sodium chicken broth to thin and more sea salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, curry powder, and other seasonings to taste.

-I've also subbed celery for broccoli, but only because of that blasted Costco pack of celery-- why did I think we could polish off four heads of celery in our lifetimes?! I think this salad is actually my favorite way to eat raw celery, though.

Broccoli Salad
1 1/2 c fresh broccoli
2/3 c dried cranberries
2/3 c frozen peas, thawed
1/4 c fresh parsley
2 T chopped pecans
3 T mayo
3 T plain yogurt
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t each of salt and pepper

T 2, El 2, Er 1, Ch 1

Nov 4
Lunch: hummus and veggie sticks, banana bread

Banana Bread
3/4 c brown sugar (I usually scale this down and use part agave nectar)
3/4 flax seed meal
5 ripe mashed bananas
1/4 c skim milk of choice (I use almond, but of course soy, cow, etc. are fine)
1/4 c yogurt or applesauce
1 egg
in separate bowl, mix:
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 c rolled oats
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c chopped walnuts
combine the two mixes and bake in greased loaf pans 70 min at 350, or 25 min for muffins

T 3, El 3, Er 3, Ch 3

Dinner: Asian vermicelli soup (sorry, no measurements here)
chicken broth
soy sauce
sesame oil
rice vinegar
Asian noodles
eggs cracked in while broth boiling
fresh basil (very distinct flavor-- much more potent and enjoyable than dried basil)

Nov 5
Breakfast: Pink Smoothie, almond milk over granola and berries (This has become my favoritest food in all the land-- it's replaced my nightly bowl of ice cream and honestly appeals to my taste buds now more than desserts. I'm shocked, too.)

Hot Pink Smoothie

juice of young Thai coconut
1 carrot
1/2 raw beet
splash vanilla
frozen strawberries
Blend everything but strawberries until liquid, then add strawberries and blend.

T 3, El 3, Er 3, Ch 3

Dinner: Pesto potatoes

Sun-dried tomato pesto
2 c fresh basil
5 whole sun-dried tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/4 t salt
3 T pine nuts
1/4 c olive oil

Blentec also struggled with this one, surprisingly. This is when I miss my old Vitamix's tamper.

T3, El3, Er2, Ch3

Dessert/snack: Banana Pops

-freeze 4 bananas, halved width-wise (so they're short) on sticks 2 hrs or until firm
-spread peanut butter over them and re-freeze 30 min until firm
-dip in melted chocolate and roll in chopped nuts or granola (I scale back the chocolate quite a bit-- mine were more drizzled than dipped in chocolate, and they were still plenty sweet)
-freeze 1-2 hours on wax paper

T 2, El 3, Er 3, Ch 1 (too hard to bite!)

Nov 6
Breakast: Green smoothie (this is a staple, but I thought I'd throw some guidelines out there in case anyone's curious)
-10 oz or so of water or juice or milk drink
-fill up blender with greens like spinach, kale, wheatgrass, cabbage, and even a handful of dandelion greens, pea greens, mustard greens, etc. (These are just the ones I've tried. There are plenty more out there, but I usually go the mild and economical route.)
-add flax seed and dates
Blend until smooth.
-add fruit, fresh and/or frozen, to taste/texture/color (I usually use bananas, apples, pears, green grapes and assorted light-colored frozen fruit like pineapple, peaches, and cantaloupe)

T 3, El 2, Er 3, Ch 3

Nov 7
Dinner: Thai coconut corn soup

3 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, minced
4-5 scallions
30 oz coconut milk
16 oz frozen corn
2 t curry powder
1/4 t curry paste, or to taste, dissolved in water before adding
1 t salt
top with 1/2 c cilantro

T 3, El 3, Er 2, Ch 2

Nov 8
Dinner: Phyllo rolls with balsamic maple sauce

Moroccan Phyllo Rolls
roast 35-45 min at 425, tossing 1-2 times:
2 c bell peppers (I subbed whatever veggies I had on hand, like carrots and mushrooms)
3 c zucchini or squash
1 c onion
1 medium fennel bulb (I used celery)
1/2 c dried apricots
6 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 t cumin
3/4 t ginger
1/2 t paprika
3/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t pepper

1 c white beans
1/2 c fresh basil (I used pesto)

-reduce oven to 375
-spread oil on 1 phyllo sheet, top with another sheet, and then fill with 1 c veggies and wrap them, burrito-style (for better instructions, go to and search for "Top 10 recipes of 2008")
bake 15-20 min until golden; serve with balsamic maple sauce and top with chopped or slivered almonds

T 3, El 3, Er 2

Balsamic Maple Sauce
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 t butter
1 minced garlic clove
1/8 t salt
1 1/2 t cornstarch, dissolved in 3 T soy sauce (I use a natural soy sauce called Braggs Liquid Aminos)
-bring it all to a boil for 1 min then remove from heat

T 2 (too salty -- I would reduce soy sauce and/or vinegar next time and up the syrup), El 3, Er 2

Nov 9

Dinner: Veggie and Ricotta lasagna (sorry no recipe; this meal is what I call a crisper cleanser. I used anything and everything in my fridge that was on the verge of perishing.)

T 3, El 3, Er 2, Ch 3

Nov 10
Breakfast: muesli
Dinner: quesadillas with avocado, tomato, hummus, cilantro, mushrooms, and a little shredded cheese to keep it all in there

-mix and refrigerate overnight:
1 1/2 c rolled oats
1/4 c raisins
1/8 c sunflower seeds
1/8 c chopped nuts
1/2 t cinnamon
2 c almond milk
1 c apple juice

I haven't tried this variation, but you can also omit the juice and add cocoa powder, maple syrup, and more milk to make chocolate muesli. Sounds super delish, but my kids gobble it up as is and I worry that after the sweeter version they may be less enthused about regular muesli. Also, this is my favorite breakfast in the whole world because it mostly makes itself, enabling me to lay comatose in bed a little longer.

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3

Nov 11 and beyond
Lunch: blender pancakes with hot pink smoothie poured on top
Dinner: Kristin's peanut butter sesame noodles

Blender Pancakes
1 c wheat, spelt, or oat groats (although I use quinoa, amaranth, or any whole wheat on hand)
1 c almond milk
2 eggs
2 T honey or sugar
2 T coconut oil
2 t baking powder (more if using oats)
1 t salt
-blend grain and milk first, and then add the rest
-cinnamon and dried fruit would also be yummy additions

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3

Sesame Noodles (as taken from

8 oz. angel hair
½ c. peanut butter (creamy is best)
½ c. water
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. white or rice vinegar
1 T. veg. oil
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 large carrot, shredded (about ½ c.)
1 small cucumber, halved and sliced.

Cook and drain pasta. Meanwhile, in large bowl whisk together all other ingredients except vegetables. Toss with hot pasta, carrots and cucumber to combine.

T3, El3+ (in a very serious tone, "Mom, this dinner is quite yummier than the bees knees."), Er3, Ch3

Well, that about concludes what is now my longest post ever, except for the natural childbirth one, or maybe Ellie's Dr. Seuss birthday party menu, or whatever else I'm obsessed with at the moment. Funny thing, though: I've clearly been exerting a great deal more time and effort learning about food and finding new recipes, but as time passes, I'm feeling less and less "obsessed" with my hobby. I still have a very appreciative, loving relationship with food, but I don't feel it controls me at all. Indeed, I don't think I've ever had a happier or better relationship with food than I currently enjoy.


Thomas Family said...

Wow, Tif, that must have taken forever, but I for one am excited to hear your time and tested recipes. I might just do all your meal plans the week after you do them...:) I find it oddly exhilarating to be in the kitchen experimenting with vegetables while holding a baby and having 20 minutes to have dinner on table ready to eat. But alas, I will have to wait until after thanksgiving to start (I'm not sure the inlaws would appreciate broccoli surprise - as mark has started calling my creations... :)

Heather said...

Your recipes sound yummy! I've been doing a fiber rich breakfast and green smoothie for lunch the past week or so and have noticed that I don't have as much of a sweet tooth. YEAH!! Dinners are harder because the kids have to like it and Craig has to like it. I commend you for your efforts. These recipes look really yummy though. I think I'll try some. I always feel better when I'm eating healthier and I feel like a better mom when I know that my kids are eating healthier too. If I find any good whole foods recipes I'll send them your way.

Laurie said...

Hi, I hope you don't mind I found your blog on Megan's page. We're undergoing a similar food change at our house, so I've very much been enjoying your posts. :) Have you tried Mark Bittman's "Food Matters Cookbook"? It is the same philosophy as Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" and has lovely recipes.

Mary said...

Wow! These look (and sound) amazing! I'm going to have to try some (or all) of them.

Joe and Christie said...

Tiffany, you are my hero. I can't wait to visit and will be very angry if the Ducks ruin our plans.

Kristen's Raw said...

Wow! Delish! ... Especially green smoothies :)

Karrot Soup said...

!!!Awesome, you and your smoothies leave me far in the dust. And where did you make that really rad silhouette of your family, by the way? Anyway, good for you. What we call muesli is also fast becoming our favorite of all breakfasts, but we just put ours together right in the morning with homemade plain yogurt and it's amazingly un-chewy, kids get to customize their own type/ratio of fruit and nuts, sugar, vanilla extract, etc. I'm definitely going to try pumpkin hummus, I'll keep you posted.

Marilyn said...

Here's the deal...I come live with you. You cook. I do ALL of the laundry, folding, ironing and mending and putting away. I will also read books to the kids. What do you say? Oh, and I will organize all of your drawers and cabinets. But, you cook.

Bryce said...

Tiff, these dinners look quite yummier than the bees knees! I hope you will be doing most of the cooking during Christmas :-)