Saturday, October 31, 2009

disastrous diet day

Ugh -- did anyone else eat too much junk food yesterday? There was a staff party at work, at which I ate pizza, salad, and THREE desserts, (well, I had to try one of each of the things that were brought, right?), then I had more sugar with the kids during their party, (cookies w/frosting AND candy corn!), and then I had MORE candy corn during the movie Dan, Ryan, and I went to last night, and THEN I had more sugar -- pumpkin cake! I did manage to squeeze a healthy dinner in there, though:

I've loved this recipe for "Cream of Wild Rice Soup" for both its taste and simplicity -- not a load of ingredients, and easy enough technique. (If you click through, you'll notice "turkey" in the title. Just omit the turkey, add a little more wild rice and veggies, and use vegetable broth.) (P.S. I don't use instant wild rice -- I just cook one cup of normal wild rice and stir that in at the end.) It was nice to get some veggies and whole grains back into my system after all of that sugar! We even had a green salad on the side! Woo veggies!

P.S. banana oatmeal sweetened with agave nectar this morning. I'll slowly work on purging the sugar from my system over the next couple of days! ;)

Monday, October 26, 2009


Sunchokes, Jerusalem Artichokes, whatever you want to call them, I finally got around to cooking with the pound of knobbly little sunflower roots I bought at the Farmer's Market LAST weekend. (Not a day ago, but over a week ago!) I was so excited to find sunchokes, since I'd never tried them before, and quickly purchased a pound.

I googled soup recipes using sunchokes, and settled on a very simple sunchoke and leek soup, containing nothing more than a little butter, some vegetable broth, milk (or a blend of milk and yogurt, which is what I used,) salt, and pepper. About 45 minutes and a hit with the stick blender later, I had cream of leek and sunchoke soup:

Oh yum! I did detect a hint of artichokeish flavor, which I'm sure was enhanced by the slight sourness brought to the party by the plain yogurt I subbed for part of the milk, but really, sunchokes are their own flavor, in my opinion. Light, almost summery, incredibly subtle, fresh, and TASTY! You'd be hard-pressed to find another fall vegetable that tastes more springy!

Served up with a side salad and a couple of crostini spread with baba ganoush:

AND, pumpkin cake for dessert!

It's been a good night. :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

super-awesome treats, among other things!

I picked my friend Courtney up from the airport this afternoon, and she brought me a gigantic mountain of treats, just to thank me for picking her up! (I swear Courtney, I'll pick you up from the airport ANY time, treats or not!) She was out east visiting her mom, and I guess there's this amazing bulk foods store by her mom's house. Look what she brought me!

Clockwise from far left: golden flax seeds, stick cinnamon, whole nutmeg, organic almonds, dried goji berries, dried STARFRUIT, dried KIWI, and sun-dried tomatoes!!!!! Amazing! I think I'm going to use the kiwi and starfruit as decorations on cupcakes -- they are WAY too pretty to just gobble up! I was also super-excited about the goji berries, since I'd never tried them before!



I've cooked a little bit this weekend, -- here's what we've been eating:

Asian Hot Pot, from Real Simple:

This is salty, noodley, comfort food at its best! Please note if you click through to the recipe . . . the first time I made this, I followed the recipe as written, and it was so salty for me, I couldn't eat it. I've cut the low-sodium soy sauce down to 1/3 cup, and that seems to suit my palate better. Also, I always add a block of cubed extra-firm tofu, for added protein and "staying power." I had two bowls of this soup for dinner on Friday night, Dan had three bowls. Yum!

Breakfast this morning:

Dan woke up this morning and declared sleepily, "I feel like something sweet." Now, Dan never, ever, EVER makes food requests -- I ask him over and over for meal ideas, and he just says, "whatever. Pasta. Beans and rice." I was SHOCKED that he said he was hungry for something! I asked him, "what kind of something sweet did you have in mind?" And he replied, "pancakes!" Wow. I didn't even think he liked pancakes that much! Since pancakes take less than five minutes to make, (not including cooking time,) I was HAPPY to oblige this request. I asked Dan if he would like blackberries in his pancakes, since we had some in the freezer from this summer, and he replied, "that would be INSANE." So, blackberry pancakes it was. Dan had SIX for breakfast, and I ate the last three of the batch later in the afternoon for a snack. Ha! Leftovers, shmeftovers.

Dinner tonight:

Hello, cheesy, creamy, pasta goodness. I made Fettuccine with Butternut and Gorgonzola Sauce, from Cooking Light, except I used spiral pasta because I couldn't find whole-wheat fettuccine at the co-op this week. Although this dish used, I swear, every pot and pan I own, it didn't actually take that long to prepare, and was definitely worth the extra scrubbing. Creamy, slightly sweet, slightly tangy sauce, full of squash and onions, smothering whole-wheat spirals made for a VERY comforting dinner. I kept the side simple -- plain steamed brussels sprouts fit the bill.

Almost forgot about dessert! How can that be?

Apple crisp, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I love, love, love the apple crisp recipe in Joy of Cooking, which is weird, because I hardly ever cook out of that cookbook! Joy gets used mostly as a tofu weight in my house. :) However, applying that recipe to some of the apples we picked yesterday made a very satisfying dessert.


In addition to making the meals pictured above, I also made granola,

(using some of the goji berries Courtney gave us!), a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting (which we haven't cut into yet, so you'll see it later this week,) washed and chopped a huge bunch of kale, made a batch of almond milk, and roasted up an eggplant and quickly pureed it into some tasty baba ganoush. (Am I spelling that correctly? Probably not. Oh well.) Yay for being prepared for the week!

double-dose of fall fun

Since the weather was gorgeously crisp and sunny when I woke up yesterday morning, Dan and I decided to squeeze in a double-dose of fall fun after we finished our "to-dos" for the day, (cat to vet, farmer's market, co-op, etc.) We packed a picnic dinner, picked up Dan's brother, and drove east to Afton State Park. Since we had such a dry spring, the fall colors were definitely muted this year, but still beautiful! We enjoyed a 2-hour hike through the woods and prairie, and caught some beautiful views along the way!

After finishing up at the state park, we drove up the road to an apple orchard, and picked a second round of apples for the season! I was way too busy picking apples to take many pictures, but I did have to record Dan's love of goats:

I swear, that man has a special radar just for finding goats. Give Dan a goat within a 2-mile radius, and he'll find it and pet it! :)

After stopping back at the state park to eat our picnic supper, Dan drove our tired butts back to the city. Needless to say, Dan and I didn't do much last night, and hit the sack pretty early!

Friday, October 23, 2009

orange food, woe is Flickr

Three of our four meals this week included some sort of orange vegetable . . . amazing! And tasty!

"Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup," from the most recent edition of Eating Well:

Tofu Mom's Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Buttered Chard:

Pasta and salad:

And "Acorn Squash Stuffed with Chard and White Beans," also from Eating Well:


In other news, Flickr has started to "mess" with me. Grr. I have a mac, and one of the lovely things about Macintosh computers is that often all you have to do with anything is "drag and drop." I used to be able to drag and drop my photos into my blog posts . . . no longer. Now, Flickr thinks I want to add a title or some dumb thing when I click on images! Drat. No more drag and drop for me, and I can't figure out how to copy and paste the dang images, either. So, I upload directly through blogger now, which is more complicated than I originally thought. AAAAAA! Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

meals, shopping, and my afternoon in the kitchen

Here's what we've been eating since I posted last . . .

Thursday night:
A repeat, but so good, it's worth it!

Saturday night:
Another repeat! Dan has said, without any prompting on my part, that I make the best pizza he's ever had. Alright!

Lunch today:
I really wish I had a bigger oven and larger roasting pan, so I could make one batch of this goodness that would last several days, instead of making multiple batches per week! Oh well. :)


After I got home from church today, Dan and I went to the Farmer's Market and the co-op together. Our haul:

This load from the FM cost us LESS than $20! Can you believe ALL of the squash, except for the pie pumpkin, cost us a total of $3????? Unbelieveable. We also scored onions, a red bell pepper, kohlrabi, sage, cherry tomatoes, and Jerusalem artichokes! Now I'll have to start searching for that cream of Jerusalem artichoke soup recipe I saw somewhere . . . !!!

Filling in the gaps at the co-op:
(I also stocked up on "lunchbox treats" this week . . . )

raw hazelnuts
organic golden flax seeds
organic dried cranberries

local asiago

organic orange juice concentrate
organic vanilla ice cream

two Lindt truffles
peanut butter Reeds ginger chews
regular Reeds ginger chews
dark chocolate "Bug Bites"
raspberry Panda licorice
black Panda licorice
white wine vinegar
wholegrain yellow corn tortilla chips

local, organic green chard
local hydroponic lettuce
local, organic sweet potatoes

local, organic salted butter
extra-firm tofu


I got a late start on my Sunday cooking projects this afternoon because we ran errands today instead of yesterday, and I also had to make lunch! I still managed to get everything done, though . . .

Honey Oat Quick Bread,, from Eating Well,
Haven't cut into this yet, since we'll have it with dinner in a bit, but it looks and smells AMAZING! Eating Well has yet to disappoint me, so I expect it will be delicious!

I also made Diann's FANTASTIC Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, to which I also added walnuts this time 'round,
I can't wait to devour one of these! This is a fantastic pumpkin muffin recipe, and with the addition of walnuts AND chocolate chips, I expect heaven!

In addition to the baking, I also roasted and pureed the pumpkin, (and I let the puree sit in a strainer over a bowl for a couple of hours to mimic "canned" pumpkin texture, which worked beautifully,) roasted the two butternut squash for the soup I made for dinner tonight, finished the soup, made a batch of soymilk, baked the sweet potatoes, toasted and chopped some hazelnuts for the soup, and washed & spun the lettuce we bought today. WHEW! I'm ready for some soup, salad, bread, and a quiet night on the couch, I think!

Stay tuned for a week of orange food . . . because nearly all of that squash and all of the sweet potatoes we bought today will be consumed this week! (I wonder if my vitamin A is low or something, since I'm craving orange food???)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

I think most everyone these days is aware of climate change and the impact our decisions have on our future. Heck, even Target has started offering 5 cents off your purchase if you bring your own bag! I have been personally focused on this issue for a long time, and have been on sort of a "granola crusade" for several years now! :)

I swear to you, I feel like I'm doing almost everything I possibly can to reduce my use of resoruces. I took a quiz today, in honor of Blog Action Day, and was surprised by my results -- if everyone alive on planet Earth lived as I, we'd need 1.43 Earths to accomodate everyone!

What? We don't have enough Earths!

My highest score, although well below average, was my carbon footprint. I thought the suggestions given for reducing my carbon footprint were a little bit silly, because I really do all of those things already. I bus halfway across town to work, we buy compact fluorescent lightbulbs, we hardly ever fly, we unplug/shut off appliances when not in use, (our power bill is less than $20 per month, and we pay extra for 100% wind energy,) but that area is still my highest. Why? Well, for starters, I live in an apartment building, which means I have little control over appliances, insulation, green building, and the like, and truthfully, Dan and I still drive quite a bit. Dan's car is old and not terribly fuel-efficient, and we know someday we'd like a hybrid. We also like to travel, and travel by car is still the cheapest option for us -- bus and train tickets are often much more expensive than a tank or so of gas needed for visits to the family, and there's no way we'd get all of our camping equipment on a train! :)

What to do? Buy carbon offsets? Maybe this is our best choice for now. And we'll keep that hybrid in mind for the future . . . .

I encourage you to take the test and check out your score -- you may be as surprised as I! Don't be fooled by those below-average scores you may get, either -- clearly, "average" ain't doing us a whole lot of good these days! We should all aim for scoring at or below the "one Earth" level, since, well, that's all we have.

Happy Blog Action Day! It's not too late to join in if you're interested!

(And, if you take the quiz, leave me a comment with the link to your score if you're willing!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

yum, yum, tasty delicious!

Meals and treats from this week so far . . .

Sunday lunch:
This is one of those meals that I make when I can't think of what else to make, or when I have veggie odds and ends to use up, or when I have a ton of gorgeous looking veggies on hand! This week, it was the third reason. Roasted tofu with red pepper, sweet potato, butternut squash, green beans, purple potatoes, beets, garlic, and "Northern Blend" from Wayzata Bay Spice Company. Holy hell, this was a tasty, nutritious lunch!

Sunday dinner:
Homemade pizza and salad! Artisan Bread half whole-wheat crust topped with homemade pesto, local mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, homemade veg Italian sausage, onions, kalamata olives, and oven-dried tomatoes. Thankfully, there's enough extra cheese, another crust, and plenty of pesto leftover . . . I think we're having pizza again later this week! Nom, nom, nom.

Monday night dinner:
Not to keep tooting my own horn or anything, (wait . . . that's what you DO on a blog, right?), but I think I might make the best fajitas I've ever had. Marinated tempeh, peppers, and onions, topped with queso fresco, salsa, lettuce, and homemade guacamole. Leftovers for lunch today were just as satisfying!

Dinner tonight:
Geez, we've been eating a lot of white flour this week! Whoops. Anyhow, tasty kale and sausage stew from Tofu Mom, with two baking powder biscuits on the side. Man, if I could have, I would have eaten the entire pan of biscuits. I think I'm kind of falling in love with butter a little bit . . . perhaps I'm just channeling my inner Julia Child?

And I thought I'd save the chocolate for last:
This pan of brownies is quickly disappearing 'round here, because, I must confess, I think these might be the best brownies I've ever made. Gooey, fudgy, rich, not too sweet, everything I want out of a brownie, anyway! Mmmm. Dan's been having ridiculous brownie sundaes every couple of days or so, and I've just been sneaking bites straight out of the pan. :)

In other news, I've been having intense pastry cravings lately -- well, cravings for sweets in general. Must be the cold weather! Anyone else's body trying to pack on a layer of fat before the winter? Mine sure wants all the butter, white flour, and sugar it can get right now! I'm trying to keep the treats reasonable, but it's been a struggle . . . !! ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to cook healthy every day and maintain your sanity at the same time!

I'm beginning to realize that I'm a bit of an odd duck. I know a couple of people that cook from scratch like I do, but not many! I've always wondered why everyone doesn't cook from scratch like I do, and then it hit me . . . 'cause it's a LOT of work. And a lot of clean-up.

I've got to tell you, though, I've come up with a few strategies that have really helped us along:

1. MEAL PLAN. Either Friday night or Saturday morning, I sit down and pick out what recipes I want to make for the week. (This also gives Dan the opportunity to add his two cents to the meal plan!) I then go through those recipes, check what ingredients we have on hand, and add the ones we don't to the grocery list. This is also a good time to figure out what things we'll need for breakfasts, snacks, and treats throughout the week, too. While I'm checking on available ingredients, I also clean out and reorganize the fridge. Helps me find ingredients that need to be used up ASAP!

2. GROCERY SHOP. I take time, usually earlyish on Saturday morning, to hit the Farmer's Market, co-op, Asian grocery store, and/or Middle Eastern market to finish our shopping in one outing. I always go to the Farmer's Market first in case I can't find something on our list, and can then pick it up at the co-op instead. Since I know all of these markets like the back of my hand, I can usually have our shopping for the week done in less than two hours! (This used to take longer when I walked everywhere, but now that I can borrow Dan's car, it's much faster.)

3. COOK AHEAD. I block time most Sunday afternoons for a cooking marathon. I make a big list of all of my cooking projects for the week, and get cracking. I usually bake one or two things for the week, (usually a breakfast muffin/scone/granola and a treat,) and spend the rest of my time making soymilk, bread, sauces/marinades, shredding cheese, cooking rice, and prepping as many veggies as can be pre-prepped. I go so far as to pre-measure spices for different stages of recipes! My first step in this cooking marathon is usually preparing Sunday dinner, so it's ready to pop in the oven (or serve out of the Crock Pot) when my marathon is over. If I start my marathon as soon as I get home from church, (around 11 AM,) I'm usually done and ready for a nap around 3:30, and this includes cleaning up!

4. THINK AHEAD. For example, we're having fajitas for dinner tonight. SO, this past weekend, I made the fajita marinade and sliced the tempeh, peppers, and onions. This morning? I had to remember to add the marinade to the tempeh and veggies. Easy enough, right? Tonight, all I have to do is cook up the tempeh and veggies, make guacamole, and set out the toppings! Woo!

5. PACK LUNCHES AFTER DINNER. This is something I'm slowly getting better at, but I find it SO easy to just set out a couple of tupperware containers to fill up as we're dishing up dinner. While we eat, these portions cool, so packing fruit, snacks, napkins, and flatware takes seconds after dinner! I'm totally not a morning person, so I love having almost everything ready to go the night before.

6. CLEAN UP AS YOU GO. This is a habit I've developed due to our miniscule kitchen, but cleaning up during "idle time" in cooking has made cleaning up after dinner take less than ten minutes! I always run a sinkful of hot dishwater before I start cooking, and when I find myself with a few free minutes, (onions are softening, water is coming to a boil, oven is preheating, etc.) I wash a few dishes. By the time we sit down to eat, the kitchen is usually almost completely clean! This leaves only serving dishes/pots and our plates, silverware, and glasses to wash after dinner. Speedy!

Anybody else out there have awesome tips for staying on top of a healthy, whole-foods meal plan? Please share!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

three meals and an awesome treat

I've been eating this for breakfast all week:
Although probably slightly higher in calories than a regular bowl of oatmeal, baked oatmeal keeps well and microwaves easily throughout the week. Yum! Whole grains for breakfast!

Dinner Monday night:
Chickpea Cutlets and Mustard Sauce, both from Veganomicon, with sides of roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli. Hearty, delicious, and satisfying!

Dinner last night:
We've been digging spicy food lately, and this coconut curry did not disappoint. Tempeh, squash, mushrooms, and spinach, in a creamy, spicy sauce, all over brown rice. Yum!

Last but not least . . .
I just HAD to make a pie with some of those apples we picked at the apple orchard last weekend! I don't care if a slice of pie has more calories than my typical breakfast . . . pie is SO tasty. Yum. Hands down my favorite dessert!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

three meals

Last week was a "Brooklyn Pad Thai" (with broccoli) week:
I know that Isa says that her recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance makes four servings . . . but we get between six and eight servings from one recipe. Whew! (Who can eat that much food in one sitting?) I'm really not complaining, though, because I loves me some delicious pad thai. And this past week, I streamlined the whole process by prepping all of the ingredients, including the sauce, on the weekend, so when it came time to eat, all I had to do was heat a pan and dump pre-measured bags/containers in. Woo! Convenience!

We also had this delicious meal, prepared by Dan:
Dan fried up some tofu, added mushrooms, garlic, onion, kale, and a whole bunch of yummy stuff to make a "sauce," (including, but not limited to, mustard, balsamic vinegar, and capers,) and served roasted purple potatoes on the side. I did nothing to help with this meal, besides chop up the kale. (Dan said he was intimidated by the size of the bunch.) Delicious! Dan really should cook more often. :)

And, chili and cornbread is always a quick, delicious dinner:
I edited Robin Robertson's recipe for "Black Bean Chili with Cilantro Pesto" by adding some TVP, a canned chipotle pepper in adobo, and four Thai chiles, minced, and threw the lot in my Crock Pot and cooked the chili on high for four hours. Spicy, spicy chili! My tummy may hate my later, but this was FANTASTIC. The cilantro pesto really makes this dish! Corn muffins are extra-dark because I used buckwheat honey to sweeten them, but I love the dark muffin with the golden-yellow kernels of corn poking through. Plenty of leftovers for lunches this week, too!