Don’t get me wrong; good pesto doesn’t need any fixing. During basil season my husband takes over the food processor and it becomes his pesto-making machine. We have a stocked freezer all year.
For the past two months we’ve been living in a rental apartment in Tel Aviv and, while we’re cooking more than going out, there are limits to what we make. I’ve found several varieties of fresh pesto in the local supermarkets that are delicious but they’re all a bit thin & oily for my taste. Tonight, looking to give my son’s pasta dinner a nutritional boost and begin clearing out the freezer, I added a chunk of thawed chopped spinach. He devoured most of it eagerly and I polished off the rest.
I’ve discovered a new favorite trick!
a week of good eating: My challenge these days is creating healthy meals that don’t take more than an hour to prepare and are palatable to both my husband and Baby A (who’s a big 20 month old with a healthy appetite!). During opera season my husband does more than his share of the cooking and everything is delicious. I’m not always so lucky in my recipe explorations but I love cooking so I keep at it. I adjust recipes according to feeding only three of us and freely interchange ingredients to match what I have or what looks freshest at the market.
#1) Baked Asian-Style Salmon from The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook, by chef and runner Lewis Butler
makes 6 servings, prep time: 25 minutes / cook time: 40-45 minutes
per serving: 350 calories, 35 g protein, 18 g carbs, 14 g fat, omega-3
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 2T butter over low heat in a small skillet. Add 4 medium thinly sliced onions, cooking 25 minutes or until caramelized. In a bowl mix 1 carrot shredded using a veggie peeler, 2 chopped baby bok choy heads, (I used chard leaves b/c that’s what I had), 1 diced bell pepper (mine was already roasted so I caramelized it with the onions instead), and 2 cups bean sprouts (again, didn’t have so I added broccoli sprouts at the end as topping) rehydrated shittake mushrooms (my addition). In another bowl, grate peels of 2 limes and mix with 1/3 cup soy sauce and 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce. Coat 6 salmon fillets (5 oz each) with the sauce mixture. Tear 6 pieces of 12″ x 12″ parchment paper or foil (if cooking on the grill). Divide the veggies evenly and top each with a salmon fillet, a few mint leaves, and thin slices of lime. Fold into packets and bake packets on sheet for 15 to 20 minutes. I assembled all ingredients before I left for the gym, programmed the oven to preheat and started the rice cooker. Dinner was ready 20 minutes after we arrived home and it was delicious!
Last night’s dinner was such a spectacular failure (right down to the lettuce still being gritty from improper washing) that I’m still not talking about it! I couldn’t face my kitchen today so I took something out of the freezer that I knew both of my boys liked. Unfortunately the little one decided that he didn’t like it this time around but my husband, who doesn’t like lentils or sweet potatoes ate it happily. I’ve played around with the topping, depending on what’s in my kitchen. It works well with squash and parsnips also. The link to the recipe is in the title and I don’t have my own picture, so the one to the left is from The Kitchn.
#3 Vegetarian Oden (Japanese Root Vegetable Stew) from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook
cooker: large round or oval
setting and cook time: high for 4 hours or low for 6 to 7; tofu and kuzu added during last 15 minutes
I found another filling vegetarian recipe that’s a hit with all three of us! Unfortunately, after 4 hours of cooking on Thursday night the veggies were nowhere near finished so we left the crock pot on and went for pizza. We’ve been enjoying the broth with veggies and noodles for lunch and dinner since but I never got around to making the tofu. Adjust the veggies according to taste and availability and although most of the alcohol cooks off, you might consider using nonalcoholic mirin. All of these veggies except burdock and daikon were available at my Whole Foods and the rest of the ingredients can be found at most Asian groceries. Next time I will half the amount of veggies to fit into my 5-quart/4.7L slow cooker.
Coat the slow cooker with 1 T olive oil. Place all vegetables in the cooker: 1 large yellow onion, cut in half then cut into 1/2-inch wedges, 1 pound new white potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes, 1 1/2 cups cubed burdock root, 1 1/2 cups peeled and cubed daikon, 2 medium-size rutabagas or white turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, 3 large carrots, cut into thick rounds, 2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into thick rounds 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed and broken into pieces, one 3 to 4-inch piece kombu seaweed, wiped clean and cut into strips, 5-8 slices peeled fresh ginger, bruised with the side of a large knife. Add 1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce, 2 T mirin and water to just cover veggies. Cover and cook (see above) until vegetables are just tender and still hold their shape. Add one 14-ounce block firm or extra firm tofu, drained very well on towels and cut into 1-inch cubes. Stir gently to combine. Dissolve 1/4 cup kuzu (arrowroot) in 1/4 cup cold water. Stir into hot stew and simmer on high until the liquid is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Serve with buckwheat noodles. Top with sesame oil & green onions.
baby food: My life is consumed with baby food these days. I try to make most of my own because it’s cheaper and probably healthier. Plus, I have the time and Baby A loves it, so why not? I always make enough for three meals- one now, one later and one for the freezer. My creations are formulaic. I almost always use some type of beans or lentils for iron. I also keep tabs on protein and try to minimize sugar intake, even though it’s all naturally occurring at this point. Sometimes I add chia powder for extra nutrition and if Baby A doesn’t like something, I mix it with yogurt and he gobbles it down. Finally, I make sure he “eats his colors”. His afternoon snack is usually a squeezy pack of fruit and veggie combo and breakfast is scrambled eggs with cottage cheese, fresh made hummus (my husband’s new specialty) or cereal with banana. We often start the meals with blueberries, munchies or happy puffs. He feeds himself while I prepare his meal. So many pre-made baby snacks actually have sugar added that I have to be careful what I pick up in the store. The following recipes were tweaked until I knew they’d please his palate and all use ingredients already in the kitchen:
Daal with veggies: sauté cauliflower, carrot & onion, blend with yogurt, red lentils and acorn squash, add dash of cinnamon, turmeric and cumin
Kale pudding: steam kale, boil amaranth, dry fry tofu, blend together with any excess water from amaranth, add manila mango and blend until creamy
Sweet beans: soak & cook calypso beans according to instructions, bake white yam, cook bulgar wheat (instant from TJs- less healthy but quick), blend equal amounts
Super peas: steam peas and black eyed peas (from the freezer), peel and chop apple (or pear) and boil with vanilla bean into applesauce, blend together with leftover rice or other grain
Lentil breakfast porridge: This breakfast was created purely by accident because of the leftovers I had in my fridge. I sent a picture to my sisters and the response came back “maybe it’s a pregnant thing” but before you decide it looks totally gross, try it! It’s one of the healthiest breakfasts I’ve eaten in a long time and even my husband said it was good (in between bites of his eggs). Plus, if you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to finish off the last bit of leftovers from last night’s meal. I had kasha (buckwheat groats) from a Christmas dish and sprouted lentils from last week’s soup. The kasha can be found at health food stores or Russian markets (with hilarious translations on how to cook them). I bought this bag of sprouted lentils at a Raley’s market in the mountains but it looks like Costco is the main distributor. I’m a sprouted lentil convert because they’re much quicker to cook than regular lentils and they don’t seem to get mushy. To make the porridge, I emptied kasha and lentils into a small pot, added milk, chopped apple, cinnamon and a little honey. I simmered the mixture until the apples were slightly soft then enjoyed my breakfast!
Peanut miso dipping sauce: I found this recipe in The New Soy Cookbook a few years ago and it has been the base of our favorite go-to meal since. We always put it over noodles and sauteed veggies but it would be delicious as a simple dipping sauce for fried tofu or raw veggies also. In a food processor combine 1 large clove garlic, 2-inch chunk peeled fresh ginger, 1/4-1/2 cup hot water, 1/2 cup unsalted peanut butter, 2 T sweet white miso (I use whatever type is in the fridge), 1 T shoyu (Braggs liquid aminos work perfectly), 3 T fresh lime juice (other citrus substitute in a flash but I prefer lime), chili oil or ground hot pepper to taste. Blend until smooth. Boil noodles– buckwheat udon or fresh shanghainese are my favorite. Fry cubes of extra firm tofu in canola oil. Sautee garlic, onion, broccoli and mushrooms (or whatever else is in your kitchen). Mix together and enjoy!
Pumpkin Custard: Somehow Thanksgiving came and went this year and I never ate a slice of pumpkin pie! A few days ago I decided it was time to make one for myself. Knowing I would be eating most of it, I decided to tweak my usual recipe from the Williams Sonoma Autumn cookbook and make it slightly healthier. What I came up with was a delicious, crust-less pumpkin custard, perfect for breakfast when topped with yogurt and still a satisfying dessert topped with fresh whipped cream! Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups pureed or canned pumpkin (I like canned better in this recipe!), 1/4 cup maple syrup, 4 eggs (beaten), 3/4 cup half-and-half (for a healthier version, try coconut milk), 1 1/2 t cinnamon, 1 t ginger, 1/2 t nutmeg, and 1/4 t cloves. Pour into lightly greased 9 inch pie pan and bake for 45 minutes or until custard is firm in middle.
Flax & bran muffins: I’ve been liking bran muffins lately so I decided to make my own this morning. I vaguely remember that I’d seen a recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill flaxseed meal package, so I followed that loosely. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line or grease 1 dozen small muffin tins. Shred 1 large carrot & 1 large apple. Mix together any combination totaling 1 1/2 cup flax meal, oat bran, almond bran, wheat bran & whole wheat flour. Add to that 1 t baking soda, 1/2 t baking powder, pinch of salt, 1/4 cup or more brown sugar & 1 t cinnamon. Stir in carrots & apples, 1/2 cup walnuts, 3/4 cup milk, 2 eggs beaten & 1 t vanilla. Mix only until well blended and spoon into prepared muffin tins. Bake 15-20 minutes. Serve warm with yogurt and freshly picked blackberries!
Salmon & rice wrap: This morning I needed to finish some leftover cooked salmon, so I put brown rice in the rice cooker while I washed 3 leaves of swiss chard, cut the fish into pieces, and boiled water in the steamer. (The salmon had been pan-fried two nights ago in olive oil with cumin, tumeric, salt & pepper) Once the rice was cooked, I put in the middle of each piece of raw chard a spoonful of rice and a piece of salmon, then sprinkled on rice seasoning. I folded all four corners of the chard over, careful not to snap it, then placed each one face down in the steamer. 5 minutes later, I had a delicious breakfast with a good balance of protein, carbs & fat, full of omega-3, vitamins C, K & B-complex group, and minerals such as iron & potassium.
Green Power Smoothy: For the next month as I move through an elimination diet then a 3 week cleanse, my breakfasts will consist of smoothies and fresh juices. After a workout, I’ll most likely always make some sort of fancy power smoothy to refuel my muscles. This morning’s tasted better than it looked and had a good combination of fats, carbs and proteins, plus other goodness. I blended it very thoroughly on high speed in my VitaMix to be sure the texture was smooth. Measurements are approximate. 1 cup coconut milk (not canned), 1/2 cup pineapple chunks, 5 small curly kale leaves, 1/2 avocado, 2T sprouted sunflower seeds, probiotic capsule (powder dumped out of the capsule), shake of cinnamon & turmeric, 2T chia seeds (pre-soaked & added at the end)
Coconut Parfait: I started my morning off with a delicious, nutritious raw parfait. It will give me energy for all of my practicing this today. I’ve been on a So Delicious Coconut Milk kick lately and decided to use that, rather than yogurt as my base. (I also found on the blog I linked the “Coconut Milk” above to- a dozen raw cookie recipes, which I’m looking forward to trying!).
Fill half a glass with unsweetened coconut milk and add 2 T black chia seeds (they will soften by the time you’re ready to eat!). Mix in dates and almonds or a different combo of dried fruits and nuts. Chop 1 mango letting juices run into glass and a few strawberries. Mix and enjoy!
Chai Tea: A friend shared her recipe with me after after experimenting for her favorite flavor combinations and I added a few of my own. Black tea is more traditional in chai, but she makes a decaf version with rooibus. Also, any type of milk can be used but I use un-sweetened coconut milk. And finally, if you choose to sweeten it, I recommend honey, although most sweeteners will work. Play with proportions and spice combinations to your taste.
Boil 6-8 cups of water with spices for 15-30 minutes. Add tea & steep 5-10 minutes. Add milk & sweetener and heat until almost boiling.
cinnamon sticks, 3/ peppercorns, 1T/ cardamom pods, 10-15/ cloves, 1t/ nutmeg, chunk of round/ fennel seeds, 1t/ fresh ginger, small piece
Rooibos (or other) tea, 2T (in a tea basket)
1 apple, 1 pear, parsley, handful of spinach & dandelion greens, 1 small beet, 1 carrot- too sweet & left me a little woozy on empty stomach
1 grapefruit, 1 cara cara orange, 1 small blood orange, small chunk of ginger, 1 carrot, 1 small beet, parsley, spinach & dandelion- a little bitter but my husband loved it and i felt great after
2 apples, 1 carrot, 1 small beet, handful of kale, small chunk of ginger, handful of spearmint- mint was a great touch!
salad in a glass- 1 apple, 1 small beet, 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery w/ leaves, large handful of mixed dandelion greens, spinach & rainbow chard, handful of parsley- super satisfying and delicious
Daikon & carrot “skinny” salad: Before we went to Japan on our honeymoon, we were very interested in cooking our own Japanese food, despite the awesome offerings in our neighborhood. We put together a “Japanese kitchen” with the suggestions of a charming, informative book called Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat. This salad is based on one of her recipes. Purchase or make your own usu-age (thin-fried) tofu. To make: Wrap chunk of tofu inside a dish towel and place a book on top of it to drain excess water. Cut 8 oz firm tofu into thin strips then triangles. Pour thin layer of canola oil into frying pan and heat until oil is thin and very hot. Fry tofu until golden brown on each side then drain on plate layered with paper towel. Heat small pot of water to boiling, then dunk fried tofu for about 1 minute to remove excess oil. Shred or cut into matchsticks 1/2 small daikon & 2 carrots. If using matchstick, saute for a couple of minutes in very little of the remaining oil. If using shredded, leave raw. Combine 2t rice vinegar, 2t sake (I sometimes use mirin if that’s all I have but it takes better w/ sake), 2t reduced-sodium soy sauce, 2t sugar (I love replacing the sugar with stevia flakes- they add a nice flavor, texture and color). Mix tofu and sauce into veggies and cook on medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Top with sesame seeds and a drizzle of either sesame oil or Bragg liquid aminos. Serve over brown rice.
Laura’s Kugel: I’m calling this one my own because I looked over so many recipes and found nothing that I could make with ingredients in my fridge, so I made up something. It turned out spectacularly well except I forgot the raisins (so I sprinkled them on top). I think the special touches to this kugel were the homemade spaghetti noodles and the homemade applesauce.
I fell asleep a couple of nights ago dreaming up what to do with the leftover fresh pasta we’d made for dinner. My husband supplied me with the name “kugel” as what I was describing I wanted to eat. I looked for recipes in the morning but everything contained cottage cheese, farmers cheese or sour cream. I finally found a dairy-less recipe with applesauce, tons of sugar and margarine. Gross. I had enough of an idea what to put into it that I decided to go from scratch. The amounts of each ingredient were unmeasured so amounts are estimated for reproduction purposes!
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil bread pan. In a heavy saucepan, make applesauce by combining 4 apples chopped into small pieces, pure cherry juice- just enough to coat bottom of pan and 1T cinnamon. Feel free to experiment with other types of juice or water, different spices and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, leaving lid on except when stirring. When apples have been cooked down to a sauce consistency but are still slightly chunky, remove from heat.
Beat 3 large eggs, 1 T agave, 1 T cinnamon, handful of raisins, dash of ginger, nutmeg & cloves. Add 2/3 cup applesauce, and leftover pasta (I used about 2 portions worth-probably 250 grams before it was cooked). Stir all ingredients until well blended then pour into prepared bread pan. Bake for up to 1 hour or until top is golden. Enjoy topped with more applesauce!
Ann’s Bread: I love baking bread in the fall. There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a bite of fresh, warm bread. My mom sent me a copy of this recipe from a cookbook called Delitefully HealthMark . It has become my staple because even though it does need two rising periods, the active time is minimal and it always comes out perfectly. The recipe makes 3 loaves- one to eat, one to freeze and one to give away to a happy friend!
*I did make this recipe before we received the kitchen aid mixer off our wedding registry (!), but it’s WAY easier to kneed it in the mixer than by hand.
In a large bowl, combine 3 cups rolled oats and 4 cups very hot water. Let it stand until temperature reaches 110 – 115 degrees, then added 1/2 cup wheat germ, (I use whatever type of germ or bran I have in the freezer) 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup canola or safflower oil, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup molasses, 1 T lite salt (I use regular), 1 1/2 T dry yeast (buy it in bulk at your local health food store). Let stand, uncovered, and allow to “bubble” about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup whole wheat flour and enough unbleached flour (3-5 cups) to make a firm dough. (Start with the smaller amount and add more only if necessary- just until the dough isn’t sticky.) Knead until smooth and elastic, about 15-20 minutes. (No, this is not an aerobic exercise.)
Brush a large bowl lightly with oil. Place dough smooth side down in bowl then turn over so top side is coated with oil. Let stand about 30 minutes until doubled in volume. (I usually cover it to keep the heat in and place it in the warmest part of my house.) Punch down.
Coat three 9″ x 5″ pans with cooking spray or brush lightly with oil. Divide dough into three portions, form into loaves and place in pans. Brush loaves with beaten egg white or oil and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds (I usually forget this step!). Allow to rise just to top of pans, 20-30 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. To test for doneness, remove loaf from pan and tap on ottom. Bread is done when it sounds hollow. When done, remove from pans and allow to cool on wire rack before slicing.
Fall shaved salad: A few weeks ago I had a salad similar to this at Schmidts in San Francisco. Last night I was inspired to try and make it myself. Using kitchenaide with the shaving blade, I shaved an apple, 6 large brusssle sprouts and 2 leaves of kale without the stalks. For a dressing I shook up some spicy mustard, black cherry juice, olive oil, liliko’i spread, and fresh lemon juice. Tossed all together, it made a delicious, nutritious seasonal salad. I think it will be served on my Thanksgiving table!
Tofu cauliflower miso soup: I called my mom for this recipe when I came home from the farmer’s market with an enormous cauliflower and had no clue what to do with it. Turns out this recipe is from our next door neighbor when I was a kid. I’ve adapted it a bit.
In a heavy pot, heat 1T olive oil then saute 1 chopped or thinly sliced onion. When onion turns translucent, add 1 1/2- 2 cups chopped cauliflower (or eggplant). Saute for a few minutes then turn off the heat.
In another saucepan, melt 2T butter then slowly mix in 2T whole wheat flour. Cook over low heat 1-2 minutes, mixing constantly. Add 1/2 cup milk a little at a time. Mix in 3T red miso (the recipe calls for 3-4 teaspoons but I like more) then add another 1/2 cup milk. Stir until smooth and turn heat up to medium, being careful not to let it boil (miso should never boil). Cook 3-4 minutes more then add pepper, paprika & cayenne to taste and 1T minced parsley. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add 1/2 cup water to the cauliflower mixture, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 5 oz shredded cheese, 12 oz crumbled tofu (or deep fried tofu cubes), & 1 cup milk. Cook mixture for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add 2 T yellow or white miso (or less if you prefer less salt), thinned in water or milk.
Pour sauce over cauliflower mixture and blend with hand mixer, adding water until texture, consistency and flavor are balanced to taste. We served it with sesame greens and garlic herbed oyster mushrooms.
Falafel-style chickpea patties: This recipe is from The New American Plate Cookbook
In medium non-stick skillet, heat 1 T olive oil, medium high. Saute 1 small onion, finely chopped and 2 cloves garlic, minced for about 4 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is soft and garlic is golden. Let mixture cool.
In a food processor or blender, combine the sauteed onion mixture and 2 cups cooked chickpeas/1 15 oz can, rinsed and drained. Pulse to coarsely chop the chickpeas. Add 1/2 cup cilantro (we used basil), 1/2 cup parsley, 1 cup cooked brown rice (we used quinoa), 1 t curry powder, and 1/8 t cayenne (we used way more!). Pulse again until all of the ingredients are finely chopped and evenly distributed.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add 1 T fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (ww preferable), and salt to taste. With your hands, knead the mixture until it is like a moist dough. Form into balls or patties (about 2 T per patty).
Heat griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat it lightly with olive oil spray. Place some of the patties in the pan 1 inch apart. Cook for 4 minutes until browned (ours took way longer) then flip. Repeat with all, re-coating the pan first if necessary. Delicious hot or cold! We made a yogurt dipping sauce, mixing a little lowfat yogurt, dill and olive oil.
Lemon Bars: I adapted this recipe from a standard lemon bar recipe on the internet
soften 1/3 cup butter then beat until smooth, add 1/4 cup date sugar (or regular sugar) & 1 1/4 cup almond meal (or 1 cup regular flour)
press into 8×8 pan and bake at 350 for 12 (ish) minutes
beat 2 eggs until foamy then add 1/4-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (depending on taste preference), 1/4 baking powder, 2 T garbanzo flour (or regular flour), 1/3 cup agave (or 3/4 cup sugar)
beat for 3 minutes or until slightly thicker, add 2 t or more grated lemon peel
be sure to taste batter before pouring over crust- garbanzo flour has a distinct flavor and might need to be balanced with more lemon juice
bake 20-25 minutes
Peanut Butter Balls: Adapted from my childhood
These are a delicious, no-bake, high protien, pre or post workout snack. They are easy to throw together and easy to grab on the go. Be sure to use crunchy peanut butter, as creamy tends to be too runny to form balls.
In a large bowl mix:
Crunchy peanut butter & powdered milk (I usually start with about 1 cup pb, 1/2 cup pm)
Add in any or all of the following:
raisins, goji berries, chocolate chips
unsweetened shredded coconut
sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds
Be creative… anything goes! Play with ratio of ingredients until “dough” is a consistency that will stick together. Roll it up into bite-sized balls, store in airtight container in the fridge.
Chocolate Chip Cookies: Adapted from BabyCakes bakery in NYC
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix 1 cup canola oil, 6T applesauces, 1T vanilla extract, 1T almond extract, less than 1 cup agave & 1t salt.
2. In a seperate bowl mix 1 cup ww flour, 1 cup white flour, 1/4 flax meal, 1t baking soda & 1 cup chocolate chips (grain sweetened chocolate chips are available by Sunspire)
3. Add dry into wet ingredients then drop by spoonful onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Bake up to 15 minutes.
I found their gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe online. I used regular flour, and changed or omitted ingredients according to what I had in my kitchen. One thing to note- using agave yields more cake-like cookies than other sweeteners!