Cuisinart Recall

I often sing the praises of my beloved 14-cup Cuisinart food processor, Dorothy. I am sorry to report that the blade for this food processor, as well as many others, has been recalled. Cuisinart will replace it for free! Just to to https://recall.cuisinart.com/ and enter your product number to find out if yours has also been recalled. It’s quick and easy. The product number can be found on the base of the machine.

It’s poor timing, for sure, right before the holiday. Fortunately, I have a few other new toys that should be able to take Dorothy’s place while I await a new blade. Maybe someday I’ll get around to writing about them…

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Meal Planning

I’m not by nature the most organized person in the world, I admit. But I have come to realize in my adult life that a certain amount of planning and routine gives me freedom and greater room for creativity. This is something I continue to struggle with in my artistic practice, but I think I’ve mastered it when it comes to food.

The first step for me is to have a well-stocked pantry and freezer. I always make sure to have certain staples around: whole wheat flour and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, lentils, split peas, and usually a couple other kinds of beans and grains too, plus canned tomatoes and pumpkin puree. A few other things that are somewhat more perishable include onions and garlic, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. In my freezer, I keep plenty of frozen fruits and flax meal for my morning smoothies. I also like to have frozen greens like spinach, peas, corn, and some kind of vegetable blend. Sometimes I store tortillas or an extra loaf of bread as well.

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All of these things on hand make it easy to throw together a quick meal after work or on a weekend morning. For example, I can toss brown rice, lentils, and sweet potatoes in a pot with onions, frozen spinach and spices and have a delicious stew in less than an hour. Or split peas and potatoes, plus onion, carrot, and celery (other staples in my fridge!) I can make a breakfast hash with sweet potatoes, onions, and greens. I can improv a soup with frozen vegetables, pasta or potatoes, and some canned tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce comes together quickly with garlic and canned tomatoes. A baked potato is a great foundation for some steamed greens and leftover beans or lentils, or a spoonful of hummus. Frozen vegetables can be boiled with pasta and tossed with sauteed garlic or a little thinned out hummus. The combinations are endless. If nothing else, I can always rely on a hot bowl of oats, either sweet or savory.

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Favorite meal: Baked potato with hummus and spinach

The other important plan-aheads I do ensure I have healthy meals during the day at work. Every weekend, I prepare a big pot of something (usually a hearty soup or some variation on beans and rice) to pack for lunch every day. I try to have enough to last through Wednesday at the very least, when I ought to have time to come up with something else. Whenever possible, I also plan a snack for some point during the day – an oatmeal bar and some fruit, usually. Sometimes it’s cut up veggies and hummus.

I also prepare my morning smoothie ingredients on Sunday night. I’m kind of brain dead in the morning until after I’ve had my coffee, so I have idiot-proofed my breakfasts. I put my ingredients for each day into an old take-out container: Greens or chopped beets, flax meal, 1/2 banana, and 1/2 cup of berries or other fruit. Sometimes I include a plant-based protein powder, but I don’t think it’s totally necessary. Then in the morning, I can just dump it into my smoothie cup, add almond milk to cover, and blend it up to take with me on the bus. I’m also experimenting with blending up a big batch of smoothie and freezing it in individual cups, but the timing hasn’t been right with the thaw just yet.

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Two blueberry and kale, two mango and parsley, one strawberry and lettuce.

With a little planning and careful shopping, I can be sure to have healthy meals at my fingertips all week long. The more healthy whole foods I have around, the less processed junk or expensive take-out I am likely to eat. The busier I become, the more important this is! Especially now that I’ve gone from working 6ish hours a day to a full 9 hours. Please let me reward you with my current favorite smoothie:

Tropical Beet Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 a medium beet, cooked, peeled, and chopped

1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice (or a little more if you use chunks)

1 small thin-skinned cucumber (about 5″ long), in chunks

1 Tbls chia seeds

Juice of one lime

1/2 cup or so of unsweetened coconut milk (the kind in a carton, not a can)

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Depending on your blender, you may need to add ingredients one at a time, or use a little more milk. My old Cuisinart blender probably couldn’t have handled this, but I got a Ninja for my birthday and it makes quick work of the beets and cucumber all at once!

 

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The remains

Simplicity

Just thought I’d share my favorite quick meal with you all: A baked potato (microwaved) topped with steamed spinach (from frozen, also microwaved), and a big scoop of hummus (this one is curry hummus). Topped with a drizzle of sriracha, this is an easy, tasty, healthy meal that anyone can enjoy. Cheap too!

  

A Day in the Life, Part 2

I typically start my day with a light, nutritious breakfast. When I worked in the afternoon and evening, I would cook first thing in the morning and have a big hearty breakfast and start prepping ingredients for cooking lunch. Now that I work a more standard 9-5 day, I don’t have time in the morning to do that any cooking. But I make my coffee and blend up a green smoothie. It’s easy to prep while the coffee brews and I feed the bunny, and easy to sip while I do my makeup and get dressed. I’ve tried having oatmeal or a sandwich instead, but it’s too messy while I’m rushing around and too heavy in my gut for the two mile walk to work. This week’s smoothies have been more purple than green – steamed beets, banana, blueberries or cherries, flax seeds, and almond milk.

For lunch, I do my best to cook something on the weekend to pack up for at least the first part of the week. Later in the week I will pack up other dinner leftovers. Worst case scenario, I take dry oatmeal with raisins or other fruit and nuts, or sometimes a savory version with peas and greens. This week we’re going out of town on Thursday, so I only need three meals, and I also need to use up some stuff in the fridge. I made tofu scramble with peppers, mushrooms, and peas for Sunday morning breakfast, then packed up the leftovers with some millet. There wasn’t a ton of scramble left, so I stretched it  out with extra peas and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds for each serving. I also packed up a side of raw broccoli and hummus. I have celery and cucumbers to take on the other two days.

Three little bowls: pre-millet, but post-sriracha.

Three little bowls: pre-millet, but post-sriracha.

My dinners can be a little scattered. My manfriend usually gets home much later than I do, so we don’t always have dinner together. That’s just one more reason I try to cram a lot of nutritious food into the first part of the day! After walking home in the heat, I want a snack right when I walk in the door. Depending on my mood, I might have a bowl of popcorn, some chips and salsa, or even just fruit. If I’m really hungry, I eat some leftovers or a bowl of oatmeal. I’ll cook something light later on if we’re hungry, although I do make it a point to cook a proper dinner for two at least once a week.

Today I picked up some whole-wheat pasta and cans of beans at the store on my way home. It’s going to be in the 90’s this week, so I don’t want to have to cook beans from scratch! I have an easy formula for weeknight dinners: whole grain + bean + vegetables. Tonight I went with whole-wheat elbow macaroni, chickpeas, tomatoes, and broccoli. Here’s a “recipe” for tonight’s dinner (I’m using that term loosely, since actual recipes usually include measurements and stuff.)

Pasta With Raw Tomatoes and Broccoli

Ingredients:

Whole grain pasta of your choice (maybe half a pound?)

1 can chickpeas, drained

Small head broccoli, chopped

3 or more cloves garlic, minced

Tomatoes (I used small yellow plum tomatoes and a big red beefsteak), diced

  1. Combine the garlic and tomatoes in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Let them sit while you prep everything else.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli. When it’s done cooking, ladle off some pasta water and add it to the tomato-garlic mixture (this warms the tomatoes and makes it easier to toss). Drain the pasta.

    Sometimes there is pasta in the pasta water.

    Sometimes there is pasta in the pasta water.

  3. Toss the chickpeas, pasta and broccoli, and the tomatoes in a big bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add some fresh basil or parsley if you have it! (I didn’t.) Gobble it up!
Not gonna lie: I ate a lot of this.

Not gonna lie: I ate a lot of this.

I followed dinner with a tiny bit of dark chocolate. And that’s my day, folks! I recorded a good one for you, just to be clear. There are plenty that involve eating chips on my way home from work because my job is depressing sometimes, and others that feature wine and take-out Thai food, but I always strive for one like this. Aside from my after-work tortilla chips and salsa, it was pretty low on processed foods, including cooking oil. I’m always amazed at how many calories oil adds to a dish! Every time I cut it out, I drop a few pounds. If you want to learn more about why oil is not great for you, check out Forks Over Knives. The film is eye-opening and they have some super recipes on the website. Anyway, my point as always is that with a little planning, a healthy diet isn’t that hard.

To your health!

Easy Peasy Pilaf

Spring is a funny time of year in Pittsburgh. It’s either blazing hot and humid or cold and drizzly, and it’s nearly impossible to predict when the weather will change. So some days are worthy of light salads and avocado toast and bowls of strawberries, and other days I end up curled up under blankets with a bowl of soup bubbling on the stove and something toasty in the oven.

I know I haven’t posted in a while; my attention has been on crafty projects rather than writing, including a rag rug I started more than a year ago, as well as making progress on an embroidered tablecloth I started when I was 10 or 12 or something. I figure I’ll finish that by the time my grandkids are in college (optimism!)

I have been doing my usual experimenting in the kitchen, of course with my usual mixed results. Over the winter my manfriend and I discovered The Great British Baking Show on PBS and were immediately hooked. This inspired some wonderful, tasty, cold-weather experiments, including a savory pie that leaked, but was delicious and somehow free of the dreaded soggy bottom:

Pie! Tender pastry filled with layers of carrot, peas, and something tomato-based that hemorrhaged out the side.

Pie! Tender pastry filled with layers of carrot, peas, and something tomato-based that hemorrhaged out the side.

I also made Irish soda bread that was dense and leaden but had a pleasantly crunchy crust, and more recently I attempted pizza in spite of my fear of yeast doughs. It was shockingly easy and turned out great. If you want my recipe, go to Aldi and buy some instant yeast. That’s what I used, the yeast package recipe and jarred sauce.

Pre-oven: mushroom and walnut whole-wheat pizza

Pre-oven: mushroom and walnut whole-wheat pizza

Baked, sprinkled with lots of fresh basil.

Baked, sprinkled with lots of fresh basil.

And finally last weekend I made crepes filled with fresh strawberries, mango, and banana, drizzled with homemade vegan chocolate ganache, which were a lot of work, but positively scrummy, as Mary Berry would say. We inhaled the crepes before I could photograph them. They weren’t pretty anyway.

All of those recipes are still works in progress and decidedly too wintery for June (except the crepes), so allow me to share today’s one-pot healthy cheap-tastic meal that required few ingredients and minimal time at the stove. I’ve got it all packed up for this week’s lunches at work. I might add a side of baby carrots and broccoli to round it out, but more likely I will pack them and not have time to eat them till after work anyway.

Easy Peasy Pilaf

Ingredients:

1c millet (or quinoa, or bulgur, or that 10 minute barley or spelt from TJ’s, or probably steel cut oats would work (if you try that, let me know))

Onion, chopped

Mushrooms, 8-16 oz, sliced (I think I used 1.5 8oz boxes but can’t be sure)

2-2.5c vegetable stock (or water + seasonings)

1c peas (edamame or lima beans would be good too)

3T sesame seeds

1T apple cider or rice vinegar

drizzle of sesame oil

green onions for garnish

1. Start by sauteeing your onion in a saucepan with a little cooking spray or small amount of oil for a few minutes, then add the millet (or other grain) and stir. Let the grain toast, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

2. Add mushrooms and stir some more. If the grain is starting to get too brown add your stock now. If not, continue to cook the mushroom-millet mixture for a couple minutes, then add the stock.

3. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Then stir in the peas, turn off the flame, cover again, and let it stand for at least 5 minutes to cook the peas finish absorbing liquid. You don’t want to overcook them; no one likes mushy peas! If you’re using edamame, you’ll need to add them sooner as they take more time to cook.

4. When your peas are warm and the last of the liquid has been absorbed, stir in the sesame seeds, sesame oil, vinegar, and green onions.

Ready for tomorrow in Tupperware!

Ready for tomorrow in Tupperware!

In other news, you know why green onions are great? They’re yummy and cheap to begin with, keep a long time, are fast and easy to use, and you don’t have to buy them very often because if you put them in a glass of water on your windowsill THEY WILL REGROW!!! Check out my stylish scallion set-up:

I "upcycled" that salsa jar because I am hip and eco-conscious.

I “upcycled” that salsa jar because I am hip and eco-conscious.

In other news, I’ve been doing the Happy Herbivore Yogivore Challenge, which is basically just getting yourself on the mat for a few minutes a day for 21 days. It’s helping a lot with the stiff neck I get from embroidering for hours at a time (I’m determined to finish that tablecloth someday). Plus it’s a not-very-intimidating way for me to get back in shape a little. My desk job doesn’t cut it in that respect; not like chasing children did! Anyway, since you read this far, I’m going to reward you with a picture of my bunny bothering me while I do yoga.

Annabelle thinks yoga time is petting time.

Annabelle thinks yoga time is petting time.

The Nine to Five

For a long time I really didn’t understand why so many people had such a hard time eating healthy food.  I got up every morning, ate a bowl of oatmeal or leftover soup for breakfast, and later cooked a big batch of something for lunch and packed a portion up for dinner at work.  Once or twice a week on my night off, I’d make a nice dinner for my manfriend, complete with dessert (usually something decadent from Chocolate Covered Katie).  I mean, yeah, I snacked on popcorn or crackers after work most nights, and would have a beer or some chocolate if my shift was stressful, but all it took was a little time and planning to make mostly healthy choices.  I secretly thought that the rest of America was just lazy.  Sorry guys.

This was my routine for years, from the time I was a Brooklyn nanny working after school, to when I moved to Pittsburgh and took an evening shift call center job. I usually worked part-time and although I didn’t have many evenings free to be social, I did have a lot of time to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Fast forward to this February, when I accepted a new position at my job that requires me to work mostly during the day.  I have some flexibility, but it’s a basic Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm job.

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This is Annabelle. I wish she liked cooking from this book as much as she likes eating the cover.

My routine is entirely different now and I don’t have it all figured out yet.  I get up every morning and make coffee and a big green smoothie.  I was beefing it up with a great protein powder from Arbonne for a while, but that’s not currently an option for various reasons, so now I’m adding oatmeal and a handful of almonds to give it staying power.  Lunch at work is usually leftovers or some basic grain/bean/veg combo, the usual stuff I make, although I do occasionally succumb to ordering in.  And dinner is where I struggle.  No matter what I eat for lunch or if I take an afternoon snack, I seem to always come home half-starved and ravenous.  So I snack.  Popcorn, cereal, leftovers, junk food…and by the time dinner time rolls around, I’m too full to cook (a reverse from when I got home and was too hungry to cook).  So I skip dinner and around 8 or so I realize I don’t have anything to take for tomorrow’s lunch and hastily throw a meal together.  It’s usually curried lentils or split pea soup, both of which I’m horrifically bored with, by the way.

I get it now!  This is why people don’t cook all the time.  You’re too tired and you forget to soak the beans before leaving for work and you end up making ramen and scrambled eggs for dinner or ordering sushi delivery, and then don’t pack a lunch and order Chipotle at work then next day.  I get it, I was totally spoiled.  So that brings me to this question:  What do we do about it?

Seriously, what are your strategies for cooking healthy meals on a busy schedule?  Share your wisdom with me, internet friends!

Here’s another picture of my bunny to reward you for your tips:

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Happy New Year, and Veggie Sausage

Please forgive my week-long delay in publishing this.  Now please enjoy the only post I’ve ever written with a massive hangover.

Clean Plates!

Clean Plates!

I’m sipping ginger kombucha and hoping my stomach settles some time today as I write this. I rang in the New Year last night with some of my closest and oldest friends, ate a lot of food, and drank an unknown quantity of whiskey. Hence my stomach’s need to settle.

I did prepare for this situation though, by planning ahead for my first breakfast of 2015: I sent my manfriend to the store for coffee beans and eggs yesterday while I stayed home and made fake sausages and unpacked a gallon of sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is necessary for New Year’s Day so you have good luck in the new year, and as an added bonus it is cheap and easy to make, as well as great for your micro-biome. I’m not sharing how to make kraut today because there are too many other people more qualified than me, but I will share with you how I made my meatless sausages! I made them up as I went along, so understand that the measurements are not precise, but they were awfully tasty.

Veggie Sausage

Ingredients
1 cup cooked lentils, well drained
1 cup cooked white beans, well drained
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cooked pearl barley (brown rice should also work, I just happened to have cooked barley on hand)
1/4 cup walnuts
1 medium onion
lots of garlic (I used a bunch of those tiny cloves from the center of the head and I didn’t count)
1/2 a medium apple, cored and chopped
3 Tblsp nutritional yeast
1 Tblsp tomato paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp each of several different dried herbs; I used oregano and thyme and lemon-pepper seasoning blend. Put in sage too. I don’t know why I don’t have it.
1 tsp each of ground coriander, paprika, and turmeric (smoked paprika would be great!)

1. Start by grinding up the onion, garlic, herbs and spices, and walnut in the food processor until you have a chunky paste.
2. Add the beans and lentils, oats, barley, tomato paste, and yeast. Pulse until combined but not totally smooth.
3. Taste for seasoning and once you’ve got it just right, add your apple chunks and pulse a few more times. You want to be able to see some bits of apple.
4. Refrigerate the goop for about half an hour, then shape into links or patties. Actually, make patties because links kind of look like dog turds. Then put them back in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them, even overnight.
5. Cooking method is where I’m not sure what to tell you. I pre-baked mine yesterday at 400 for about 20 minutes (both links and patties), then fried them this morning. They were way too brown and a little dry. I think you’ll get the best results if you fry them in a bunch of oil from raw goop, but that will take forever. So that being said, also feel free to bake them on a parchment-lined pan or greased pan (for more oily sausagey results). Do them like any of my burgers, but perhaps less time since I assume you’ll be making smaller patties. Sorry to be vague. I trust you though. You’re smart people who are probably less hungover than me, and you can figure it out.

We also had grapefruit, grits, bagels, eggs, and coffee for breakfast today with our good-luck kraut and sausage. Put ketchup on the sausage. Why don’t we ever buy ketchup?

Bon appétit! And happy New Year!