meal plan: week of Feb 3-9

If it was up to me, the menu this week would be soup, soup, soup, soup…but I aim to please the two others in the house, who prefer a little variety.
Monday lentil soup and roasted broccoli
Tuesday- quinoa Mexican skillet [I add more seasonings and a can of black beans to this recipe] with a salad
Wednesday- ham and beans with roasted brussel sprouts (I think I am also going to try this bread.)
Thursday- family dinner
Friday- breakfast burritos (Ryan and Philomena will have normal tortillas, and I am going to *try* these. We’ll see…)
Saturday- we have family plans
Sunday- eggs and pancakes for breakfast (this or this recipe); something from the freezer for dinner
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recipe: pumpkin pie “green” smoothie {Tasty Thursday}

pumpkin pie "green" smoothie

In the morning, after I’ve changed the ridiculous-bundle-of-energy-when-she-first-wakes-up toddler’s diaper and after my somniferous haze has slightly lifted, our conversation usually goes like this:

Me: Do you want to go downstairs for breakfast?

P: Yeah!

Me: What do you want to eat?

P: Cor! Cor! Cor! [translation: corn. Her new culinary obsession.]

Me: Okay, fine, you can have some corn, but what else do you want?

P: Cor! Cor!

Me: Yes, yes. You can have some corn. Would you like a smoothie too?

P: Ssssooo! Ssssooo! [translation: smoothie]

Me: Great! Who’s going to put the strawberries in the blender?

P: Pssss! [translation: Philomena. Explanation of this oddity here.]

Me: Who’s going to put in the banana?

P: Pssss!

Me: Who’s going to put in the spinach?

P: Pssss!

Me: Who’s going to pour in the milk?

P: Mama!

And so begins our day.

I don’t know why I told you all of that…but, the point is little people love their routines, and smoothies are part of ours. And corn too, of course…but, I didn’t think you would need detailed directions on how I prepare her frozen corn. [Okay, okay. I run hot water over it until it’s unfrozen. So there.]

Anyway, as I said before, I am completely cliche and faaaaaaar from unique in my love for pumpkin, the king of autumn foods.

The other morning I broke from our usual smoothie routine and attempted a pumpkin one. It was delicious! And healthy! And easy!

I thought you might like the recipe. You know, to eat after your morning bowl of corn.

mena with pumpkin smoothie

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Pumpkin Pie “Green” Smoothie

recipe adapted from Healthful Pursuit

Ingredients

1 cup milk of choice* [I used homemade almond milk, and it was fantastic.]

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 of a banana

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

a handful of spinach* [maybe 3/4 cup?]

a handful of ice

optional– 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

1. Put all ingredients in the blender and blend on high until smooth. Taste. Add a little more maple syrup or pumpkin spice, if necessary.

* Recipe notes: This makes a fairly thin consistency, so if you prefer your smoothies thicker, just use less milk and/or more ice. Also, the spinach is totally optional; however, it really doesn’t affect the pumpkin flavor, and it adds lots of nutrients!

recipe: the lazy person’s gazpacho {Tasty Thursday}

gazpacho

[Alternative caption: “looks like puke; tastes like summer”]

I almost called this recipe “the busy person’s gazpacho.” However, really, I’m not that busy. But lazy. That I am. Very lazy.

Enter gazpacho: that cold, healthy, delicious summer soup. I’ve always loved it. I spent a couple summers in Denver living with my Aunt/Godmother Rose whilst in grad school. She is nurturing to the core. So when I off-handedly mentioned that I liked gazpacho, she made it for me every. single. day. to take to class. [Hello, my name is Spoiled.]

I wanted to re-create Aunt Rose’s deliciousness. A few years ago I came across Alton Brown’s recipe. The ingredients were simple, but the process was, well, fussy. A few of the steps just seemed so unnecessary. [Yes, yes, I realize that Mr. Brown is a culinary genius and I am sure the steps have a higher purpose, but again, I am lazy…even in the kitchen.]

I simplified the procedure, but the taste remained. Then last summer when I joined the CSA for the first time, I always seemed to have extra random vegetables to use up, so I started experimenting with substitutions, and I discovered that the recipe was very adaptable. Have an extra zucchini? Throw it in. Did you not get any red bell peppers this week? Forget them.

The typical way to make gazpacho is to dice everything very small, puree only half of it, then mix it all together, so the end result is kind of chunky. However, part of my lazy adaptation is just chopping everything rather large, then pureeing the whole thing at the end. I really like it this way, but if you prefer yours with bigger chunks, then follow Alton’s method. I won’t judge. Well, much.

Also, he calls for removing the tomato skins and “seeding” everything. Again, I think this highly unnecessary, especially if you’re just going to puree it all up. So, leave the seeds in, I say! [Except the jalapeno seeds…those make it too spicy. Unless you like extra-spicy, of course.]

===

Gazpacho

Adapted for the lazy person from Alton Brown’s gazpacho.

Ingredients

1 1/2- 2 pounds tomatoes, chopped*

1 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped [feel free to substitute some/all of the cucumber for zucchini, summer squash, and/or bell pepper]

1/2 cup chopped red onion [just use yellow onion, if that’s all you have!]

1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped

2-3 medium garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 lime, juiced

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade or chopped for the garnish

Method

1. Mix all of the ingredients, except the basil, in a bowl.

2. Puree in three batches in the blender. Be careful when you are pouring the batches into another bowl, because it splashes. And tomato stains can be difficult to get out of clothes.

3. Chill for at least two hours, but the longer the better. I think it tastes better the next day!

4. Garnish with basil.

*This is an excellent way to use up less-than-ideal tomatoes!

IMG_7350[No, Mena, that tomato is a tad under-ripe, but thank you anyway.]

recipe: Mint Lemonade (Spiked and Unspiked) {Tasty Thursday and day 5 of blogging challenge}

As life would have it, the past few weeks we’ve had people over for various reasons. Some are pregnant; others are not. Some are really into a good alcoholic drink; others are more ambivalent towards spirited beverages.

So, I wanted to come up with a versatile summer drink that could be alcoholic or non-alcoholic easily. I posed the question on Facebook, and after some confusion [Alison] that it was a veiled pregnancy announcement [it wasn’t], I got some great suggestions!

However, despite all of that, I just decided to make up my own recipe.

bourbon mint lemonade

The lemonade is really quite fabulous on its own, but the bourbon gives it that extra yummmmm factor. It is so great for a crowd of people, but it’s simple enough to do on a weeknight.

And I think it tastes better if you drink it on a front porch swing, but that’s just me.

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Mint Lemonade with Bourbon

Important note: this recipe makes a lot. Like, we had 13 people over, and there was still some left over. The recipe can be easily halved or even quartered to suit your needs.

Ingredients

16 cups of water, divided

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, rinsed

3 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 17-18 medium-sized lemons)

Club Soda

Bourbon (we like Buffalo Trace or Bulleit, but really any kind would work)

Method

1. Heat the sugar and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat until all of the sugar has dissolved. Stir often. You now have simple syrup.

2. Take the pan off the heat and add the mint leaves. Allow the mint leaves to seep in the simple syrup for half an hour. Remove the mint.

3. Mix together the simple syrup, lemon juice, and remaining 14 cups of water. Chill in refrigerator.

4. To serve: fill a glass with ice and pour in the lemonade. Add a splash of club soda [this step seems unimportant, but it really heightens the drink.]. Optional, add bourbon to taste. [I like about 1 ounce of bourbon, whereas Ryan preferred something more in the 1 1/2 to 2 ounce range. And some of our friends just wanted a splash.] Garnish with a mint leaf, if you are so inclined.

recipe: Asian Carrot Soup {Tasty Thursday}

I am not quite back into the rhythm of blogging since my hiatus, but I thought I’d share one of my go-to, ridiculously easy recipes.

Asian Carrot Soup

Yes, I know it’s July. And sweltering weather doesn’t necessarily scream “soup,” but whatever.

Now, this is not a “main dish” soup. It’s more of an accompaniment to other fare. I usually serve it alongside lettuce wraps or (like today) potstickers.

What I love about this soup is that it has wonderful, complex flavors: it seems fancy, but it’s made of ingredients I almost always have around the house. It starts off sweet, then finishes with a kick of spice.

It’s also a great way to use up carrots that haven’t necessarily gone bad, but perhaps are a little limp and past their prime. And even though it does contain dairy, it actually freezes and re-heats quite well.

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Asian Carrot Soup

I’ve made quite a few adaptations, but the original recipe is based on the third place winner from Amateur Gourmet’s soup contest a few years ago.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic gloves, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 pound carrots (about 7 medium carrots), peeled and cut into 1-inch-ish pieces

a 1-inch pice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped small*

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot chile flakes [I usually do the full half-teaspoon, and it’s really not that spicy, but if you have little ones or people afraid of spice, I’d say start off with a fourth-teaspoon]

3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 Tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon honey [can sub sugar or agave nectar]

1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil**

1 cup milk***

Method

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, cook the onion and garlic until the onion is softened.

2. Add the carrots, ginger, chile flakes, and broth. Cover. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

4. If you have an immersion blender [one of those “gadgets” that actually gets a lot of use!], blend until all the ingredients are uniform. If not, blend it in batches in the actual blender. Be careful, because it’s hot.

5. Return pureed soup to the stove. Heat over low until hot. Be careful not to boil.

Very optional: garnish with chopped peanuts. [Confession: I’ve never actually done that until today, because I thought it would be cool in the picture. Instead, the picture looks a little gross. You win some; you lose some.]

Notes:

*You could probably substitute 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger for the fresh, but it will slightly affect the flavor. I keep “fresh” ginger cut into pieces in the freezer. It’s easy to pop one out to use for recipes such as these.

**Sesame oil is available on the international aisle of the grocery store. It’s a great condiment to have around. You only use a teaspoon or so with most recipes, so it lasts awhile, but really adds some good flavor.

***I’ve never tried it, but I bet substituting coconut milk for the regular milk would be delightful, if you are avoiding dairy. In that case, I’d say to cut out the honey.

recipe: healthy chocolate mousse {tasty thursday}

avocado chocolate mousse

[I tried to “style” the mousse in a pretty glass. Obviously, I was very successful. The next Ansel Adams, perhaps?]

This recipe isn’t for everyone, but I adored the outcome. And Ryan liked it too.

For years I had seen vegan/raw recipes for chocolate mousse, in which the main ingredient was….

….

AVOCADOS!

Yes, indeed.

The background: Philomena isn’t a big eater. I mean, she isn’t necessarily picky, because she’ll eat whatever we put on her tray…but, she won’t eat a lot of it, you know?

Avocados are the great exception. I know I exaggerate like a thousand times every blog post, but in all seriousness, I think probably close to 90% of her caloric intake comes from avocados. At the end of most meals, if she hasn’t eaten a lot, we’ll offer her avocado. And almost without exception, she’ll eat at least half of one, sometimes more. We are totally okay with this, because as you know, avocados are full of good fats.

This fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) can be crazy expensive. However, Aldi’s often runs specials on conventional ones for such discounted prices that we totally stock up. If you buy them unripened, then refrigerate after they ripen, you can keep avocados on hand longer than you might imagine.

So, anyway, recipes for chocolate mousse with avocados are all over the internet, but I was always quite skeptical to attempt them. However, since we had a good amount of avocados on hand, I thought I’d give it a try.

The process couldn’t have been simpler! The end result was smooth, rich, and creamy. Contrary to what many of the recipes boast, I wouldn’t say this tastes exactly like normal chocolate mousse. There is definitely a different aftertaste to it, but it’s not bad. I don’t think you’d be able to “trick” someone into thinking it was the real deal (well, maybe unsuspecting kids), but as a dessert in and of itself, it is quite tasty.

And the ingredients are probably things you already have on hand:

avocado chocolate mousse ingredients

Sooo…if you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, but want to stay on the healthy train, this is a great alternative!

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Chocolate “Mousse”

[adapted from a bunch of different online recipes…]

Ingredients

2 very ripe avocados

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 Tablespoons real maple syrup [although, I think any liquid sweetener would work, like honey or agave nectar]

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

two dashes of salt

chocolate chips for garnishing [totally optional]

Method

1. In a food processor [I think a blender might work too…even a hand blender], process the avocado until smooth.

2. Add the remaining ingredients. Taste. Adjust ingredients as needed. [For example, a lot of recipes I saw used a full 1/4-cup cocoa powder and sweetener, but I found that unnecessary.]

3. Put into two bowls or glasses. Garnish with optional chocolate chips.

3. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes, preferably two hours.

[Note: This recipe is highly adaptable. I think next time I might add a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter! Or maybe garnish with berries.]

recipe: michelle’s meatloaf + homemade ketchup {tasty thursday}

Meatloaf and Homemade Ketchup

Let me be clear from the start, this is not exactly my first-Atlanta-roommate Michelle’s meatloaf, because I’ve tweaked it quite a bit over the years, but it certainly emerges from her inspiration.

And she taught me two very important lessons about meatloaf:

meatloaf 2

Growing up, my mom always put the meat concoction in actual bread-loaf pan; however, all the excess grease would collect at the bottom [naaaaaaasty]. Speaking of grease, I actually think 85/15 or 80/20 beef creates a more moist meatloaf. For this particular meal, I had to use 90/10, because that’s all I had. [My family goes together to buy a locally raised grass-fed cow, and we ask that all the ground beef be processed leanly. Usually this is ideal, with the exception of meatloaf.]

Anyway, the next lesson is infinitely important:

meatloaf 3

It’s become a cliche, but bacon does, indeed, make everything better. Michelle would put the bacon on the bottom of the loaf, but I like it a little crispier, so I put it on top.

Aaaand, I know this is obnoxious, but I also like to make my own ketchup. It is easy and fantastic. Not at all necessary for this recipe, but highly encouraged.

Here goes:

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Meatloaf

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs ground beef

1/3 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons ketchup (recipe below, or use any ‘ol kind)

1 egg

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup finely diced green pepper

1/4 cup finely diced onion

3 pieces of bread torn apart*

5 to 6 pieces of bacon (raw)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Mix everything together, except the bacon and 2 T of ketchup.

3. Mold into a loaf in a roasting pan.

4. Spread the 2 T of ketchup on top, and wrap with bacon.

5. Bake covered for 40 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

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Ketchup

Adapted from this recipe at Heavenly Homemakers.

12 ounces tomato paste

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon*

scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*

scant 1/4 teaspoon allspice

pinch of cayenne

3 Tablespoons maple syrup

Method

1. Mix everything together well.

2. Store in an airtight container (like a jar) in a refrigerator. It should last up to 2 weeks, but you can always freeze extra.

Note: this makes very thick ketchup, so if you want it a little thinner (especially if you use it in a squeeze bottle), just add water a Tablespoon at a time until desired consistency.

*IMPORTANT UPDATE: After making this recipe soooo many times, there are a few things I have changed. The bread torn apart is great, but I have also just pulverized some almonds in my food processor (about 1/2 cup after processing) and added that. It makes the texture slightly different, but it is still excellent.

Regarding the ketchup- I think I have decided that this recipe has too many spices. Lately, I’ve been eliminating the cloves and just doing an 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon. It is still very flavorful.