A good friend of mine from grad school came and stayed with us last week and gave me my new food words to live by. In my work in community nutrition we never refer to foods as “good” or “bad” but instead would say they are either “everyday” or “sometimes” foods. A very true statement that is pretty easy to follow. My new and revised version of this concept is that there are no bad foods, just bad quantities. For people who like solid rules with specific quantities or lists of allowed and disallowed foods, this won’t work for you. But for everyone else who tries to navigate the world of food on their own with whatever knowledge they have, this works pretty darn well. Thanksgiving and the holidays are full of sometimes foods, but they are sometimes occasions that only come around once a year. As much as I love pumpkin pie, I truly only get to enjoy it once a year as with about 90% of the dishes I make and eat around the holidays. In my festive build-up to my favorite day of the year, hint: it falls on a Thursday every year, I mix in sweet potatoes, cranberries, and other fall staples but try to find healthier ways to enjoy them in a more everyday way. The Cranberry-Shallot Sauce this week calls for only 2 Tbsp of brown sugar as opposed to the 1 cup of sugar used in a typical cranberry sauce. I love rich, delicious holiday food but not everyday. It’s easy to make a dish taste good when it is loaded with sugar, cream and butter but finding a tasty ways to cook those same foods without all of those sometimes ingredients is much more of a challenge and something I am glad Eating Well has taken on for me! I haven’t had the time to try these yet, but here is a great example of a healthy twist on a delicious dessert with their Chocolate-Sweet Potato Parfait. I am sure I would skip the meringue step and just top it with whipped cream, but they look beautiful and sound very tasty. This week inadvertently is a very meat heavy comfort food kind of menu. Maybe I am trying to compensate for the 70 degree weather we are getting during the day by making cozy food for dinner. Either way I still think it is delicious and full of colorful veggies and whole grains. Meal Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Slow Cooker Creole Chicken & Sausage with Brown Rice and Green Salad
- Now I can’t actually take credit for making this but it was so tasty! My good friend from grad school who stayed with us last week and while we were away last weekend made this for us to find Sunday when we returned from being out of town. All of Travis’s coworkers were wondering what he was eating for lunch the next day it smelled so good. Best house guest ever!
Tuesday: Tuna Noodle Casserole
- This is a glorified version of a lunch I make for myself on days when I can’t find anything to eat. A box of whole wheat Annie’s Mac & Cheese, a small can of tuna, and frozen peas.
- I get creative with the veggie additions in this dish adding a combo of leftovers, frozen and fresh.
Wednesday: Turkey Tenderloin with Cranberry-Shallot Sauce, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- This dish screams fall to me and is a perfect combo of tart and sweet. So good!
- I couldn’t for the life of me find a turkey tenderloin so I used chicken breast but a pork tenderloin or chicken or turkey tenders would do the trick. We just cooked the chicken in a pan instead of the oven.
- The longer the cranberries cook and bread down the better it is. If you hit an undercooked whole cranberry it will make you pucker since there is not much sugar in the dish.
- I halved the Brussels sprouts and tossed them with oil, salt and pepper and roasted them at 425 for 25 or so minutes while everything else was cooking.
Thursday: Bavarian Leek & Cabbage Soup with Garlic Bread
- I almost didn’t include this since it was so bland, but I still think it has potential and is a good fridge cleaner. We had potatoes, carrots, celery and cabbage that needed using up so it was the perfect dish for this week.
- Towards the end I panicked and just started adding anything I could find to help add some flavor: 1 tsp caraway seeds, paprika, salt, etc. It was a dish that definitely improved over time. The final night I had it I added some leftover roasted cauliflower which was perfect. So my suggestions to pick and choose from would be to roast the veggies, add more spices like the caraway seed, add more salt earlier on, a can of diced tomatoes, use a flavorful green like kale, and garnish the heck out of it.
- I don’t think I would recommend this if you didn’t have a bunch of produce to use up, but I always love a challenge and figuring out how to save this soup certainly was just that.
Friday: Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower Steaks and Red Rice
- My cauliflower steaks did not hold together beautifully like theirs but it was still delicious.
- I used a different chimichurri sauce that I made this summer and froze, but I am sure this recipe would due in a pinch.
- I thought the red rice went well with the cauliflower and sauce but any grain would do just fine.
For our birthday as kids my brother and I got to pick where we would go out to dinner as a family. Inevitably we would choose Sakura, a Japanese restaurant, or India House. Not your typical choice for a seven or eight year old but we were pretty adventurous eaters. I always used to say it was because we were born in Saudi Arabia, but given that we moved to Vermont when I was 2 months old I am guessing that might not be the whole truth. But we did grow up eating Middle Eastern food my mom would make as well as other wordly foods. When I was in high school my mom and I started a tradition of cooking a themed birthday meal. A few of my braver friends were willing to partake in our Middle Eastern, Indian, and Thai themed dinner the year my mom had taken a Thai cooking class when she joined her brother on his trip around the world. My adventurous eating doesn’t go much further than wanting to try different ethnic cuisines, but I blame that on getting sick a few too many times while traveling. Takes the wind out of your sails a bit. But that is definitely something I’ve brought to our home palate. I like to throw in some dishes from different cuisines each week to keep things interesting. Granted they are usually very dumbed down versions of what is probably an extraordinary dish when made properly, but using what I can easily get my hands on and what is quick we get some very fine meals. This week I mixed some Thai and Middle Eastern flavors. Eating Well’s newest edition has a feature on quick weeknight India meals, so look forward to seeing some of those in the upcoming weeks. Meal Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Grilled Steak Salad with Eggplant & Veggies, Grilled Corn & Grilled Herbed Bread
- The name of this is actually Steak Salad with Tomatoes & Eggplant but I thought I would change it to more accurately reflect our dinner. We grilled eggplant, red onion, and bell pepper along with steak and it was super tasty.
- My simplified version of this recipe is to oil, salt, pepper and sprinkle a little oregano onto the cut up veggies. Travis grills them, chop them up, drizzle with red wine vinegar and voila.
- Travis also buttered up some bread with basil and grilled it for a hot second to go along with our salad.
- And what summer meal is complete without grilled corn? Since the season is coming to an end we are getting in as much corn as we can until next year.
Tuesday: Pasta with Pesto and Sautéed Greens
- This is my answer to too many greens and basil. I sautéed three different bunches of greens, mizuna, beet greens and komatsuna spinach together and served them with pasta.
- I still haven’t tried making pesto with sunflower seeds as I would hate to ruin it, so for now we still have traditional pesto that Stella has to miss out on. But if anyone has tried it and can recommend it one way or another, let me know!
Wednesday: Grilled Chicken & Peach Chopped Salad
- Grilled peaches are such a delicious summertime treat. This salad called for nectarines but when in Colorado in the summer, use peaches.
- I threw in a bunch of extra things we had laying around: cucumber, shredded carrot, chopped cabbage, avocado, grapes, and sunflower seeds.
Thursday: Thai Grilled Fish with Brown Rice and Green Beans
- I’ve been trying to find more summer grilled fish recipes and came across this when I was looking. It fits all my criteria of being quick, easy and expanding my fish horizons.
- I used flounder instead of red snapper or tilapia. It absorbed the flavors well and was a good substitute but we pan fried it since it was so thin.
- In the sauce I halved the sugar and added a little basil and mint too.
Friday: Middle Eastern Braised Cauliflower, Lamb Chops and Israeli Couscous
- I’m going to pat myself on the back for this one. For the first time in my recent and not-so-recent memory I cut up and used fresh tomatoes in a dish rather than canned. We have been getting more than Stella can keep up with in our CSA so instead of letting them go to waste I cooked with them. Crazy!
- Since this cooks down for long enough it worked out well, but I still prefer the skinless version I am given with canned tomatoes.
- Travis grilled the lamb chops and there was enough sauce from the cauliflower to serve with the couscous.
- I would probably double the spices next time and add a little cinnamon too for some extra flavor.
My less than successful garden harvest from earlier this summer. But it’s better than nothing!
On Sunday night we are going to a Colorado local foods pot-luck hosted by my friend Andy. We’ve each been asked to bring a dish that contains all local ingredients allowing for one non-local ingredient exception. This is in celebration of Slow Food Denver’s 30-day Eat Local Challenge in which they asked Coloradans to get as much of their diet from Colorado as they could. Andy accepted the challenge and ate 100% local from Monday August 29-Friday September 15. Impressive and resourceful! This of course has made me take stock of our pantry, fridge and freezer thinking about what percent of our diet is local at any given time. In the summer we get our weekly supply of fruits and vegetables from our CSA but of course always supplement with bananas for Stella and a few other odds and ends. We are lucky enough to be part of several meat CSAs that Andy organizes where we get ½ a lamb, ¼ of a pig and an 1/8 of a bison, all raised, butchered and processed in Colorado. But grains, beans, and most of our staples do not come from anywhere even close to local. And come fall and winter most of our local produce will disappear. So coming up with a multi-ingredient dish for the pot-luck was a challenge! I went to the store and was inspired to make a green salad with beets and goat cheese though there were so many veggies to choose from. Thankfully Andy has Colorado sunflower seed oil and local apple cider vinegar for the dressing along with some Colorado peach juice for a little extra flavor. Other additions to the feast that I know of include a chilled cantaloupe soup, roasted potatoes, burgers, sausage, grilled peaches with goat cheese and honey, and a lemon verbena ice cream. Yum! Although it is a huge effort to eat 100% local 100% of the time, I enjoyed the exercise of evaluating my pantry and taking stock of the choices I make while trying to think of little things I can change. Baby steps. Meal Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon and Soba Noodles
- As you can see we’ve been getting a good bit of cabbage from our CSA. We’ve gone through at least 5 heads in the last few weeks. And once you get sick of raw cabbage, it’s time to start cooking it.
- This was a pretty simple way to use up a head of cabbage. Nothing earthshattering but still tasty. The Worcestershire sauce was key to give it a bit of salt.
- If it is still too bland with the noodles I found adding feta was a good addition when I ate it leftover.
Tuesday: Indian Spiced Eggplant & Cauliflower with Brown Rice
- Travis was gone a few dinners this week so there was a bit of a vegetarian theme going on. Cooking bacon is about as far as I got.
- This dish is plenty flavorful with all of the spices but it didn’t knock my sox off. I think roasting the veggies tossed with the spices and some oil would have put this dish over the edge and added enough flavor to make it memorable.
Wednesday: Corn & Basil Cakes with Grilled Chicken and Broccoli
- I’ve always been curious to try these corn and basil cakes and since I have more basil than I know what to do with I figured why not. They are super quick and a unique side dish. I topped them with sour cream to go with our chicken and broccoli.
Thursday: Beet & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Lime Crema and Green Salad
- Goat cheese and beets is one of my all time favorite combos which is why this recipe sung out to me.
- This was another meal that was just Stella and I, hence the vegetarian theme. The ultimate irony of the summer is that every week we’ve had more greens than we knew what to do with and of course this week there were none to be found. So I made this dish without beet greens.
Friday: Hawaiian Fish Kebabs with Whole Wheat Couscous
- We used Halibut instead of catfish but I think most white fish would work.
- Travis grilled the fish as whole filets and I put the peppers, onion and pineapple on the kebabs.
- I don’t love raw onions so I steamed them in the microwave for 1 minute before putting them on the skewers so they were cooked rather than just charred.
- I also made a little extra marinade and set it aside to serve as a sauce for the fish, veggies and couscous.
Bonus: I made these Bacon Wrapped Peppers for a pot luck this weekend and they were delicious so I thought I’d share. What wrapped in bacon isn’t delicious.
Stella knew exactly what to do. That is how a cupcake should be eaten after all.
Our sweet little girl turns one on Tuesday. I am sure every parent feels the same way and can hardly believe a whole year has gone by, but time doesn’t lie. A year ago we were frantically trying to get as many house projects finished as we could, give our little Tazzie plenty of undivided attention, and imagine what kind of little girl we were going to meet and when?!? For a while you get a cute little blob who sleeps and eats. A lot. And slowly but surely they come to life with smiles, giggles, and babbles. Finally, bits and pieces of their personality start to come through. From what I can tell so far Miss Stella Mabel is an independent, do it herself kind of gal who has a great sense of humor, loves to simile, is very determined, a bit of a perfectionist (sorry lady), and totally in love with her puppy Tazzie. We joked that if she could choose the theme to her first birthday party it would be Tazzie and steak themed. She LOVES meat and can make a pretty good dent in a steak, burger, salmon filet, or piece of chicken. Tazzie has become very healthy of late as she ends up eating 75% of Stella’s veggies in addition to certain fruit pieces deemed unsuitable by the little lady. Carbs are eaten sparingly and eggs are a no go. We have a yogurt rule taken from Travis’s childhood that gets applied during most meals. If Stella doesn’t like what is being served she can always have yogurt. I am not going to make her a separate meal, or try to guess what she wants to eat. So if she doesn’t like what is being served she eats yogurt. A lot of yogurt! This too will pass (we hope) and someday I am sure she will shock the heck out of us and refuse to eat meat. Or maybe not…you just never know. Meal Plan & Grocery List
Monday: “Use A Spoon” Chopped Salad
- I usually try to pick recipes from previous editions of Eating Well that were published around the same time of year so they feel seasonal. This recipe is technically a winter recipe, but still seemed like it could be made to feel pretty summery too.
- I added other veggies I had like beets as well as a can of white beans to complete the salad and ate it with some garlic bread.
Tuesday: Green Chili Burgers with Grilled Okra
- I like my burgers to be covered in delicious toppings and a little more than ordinary. I like where this one starts but I of course added more toppings like avocado, the usual condiments, my homemade bread and butter pickles and beets! We learned that last one from the Auzzies.
- And grilled okra is our favorite way to eat okra. Grilling takes away much of the slime which is a big deterrent for most people. Salt, pepper and oil in a foil packet for 5-7 minutes on each side checking for doneness.
Wednesday: Eggplant, Caramelized Onion and Tomato Pasta with Green Salad
- This was delicious! So many eggplant recipes take a lot of time and often need to be baked for an hour in the oven afterwards. I am sure they are equally tasty, but for a weeknight dish this seemed more practical.
- I rarely spend the time caramelizing onions, but it was totally worth it for this recipe. While the eggplant is roasting and the pasta water heating up, the onions had plenty of time to caramelize while I worked on the green salad to go with dinner.
- I added an extra can of diced tomatoes to the sauce so there would be more.
Thursday: Thai Seared Tofu with Brown Rice and Green Beans
- I am sure most people don’t get terribly excited about tofu, but this is a super flavorful way to do it. You could cook anything this way and it would be good but since tofu soaks up flavor well, it is an excellent vehicle.
- We are lucky enough to have all of these herbs growing in our garden, but I would imagine substitutions for any herbs you have available would be just fine and equally tasty.
- I serve this with brown rice to soak up the extra sauce, but rice noodles would work too.
- I steamed the green beans, cut them up and served them mixed in with the tofu, rice and sauce.
Friday: Massaged Kale Salad with Grilled Meat
- Yet again I found myself with two bunches of kale that were taking up way too much space in our fridge. Although cooking them down consolidates the greens much more effectively, massaging also does some pretty good magic.
- I left out the raw garlic since I am not a fan as well as the anchovy filet and I totally spaced on the parmesan cheese but remembered it for lunch the next day. Whew. Big mistake. More cheese is always better.
- For fun I added sunflower seeds and golden raisins too which were tasty.
As you may have guessed from our menus from the past few weeks we are getting a ton of greens from our CSA. So far it hasn’t been a struggle to use them up but this week our refrigerator is literally overflowing.We have two very large bunches each of kale, chard and beet greens in addition to two huge bags of beautiful tender lettuce mix and plenty of other veggies. An excellent problem to have since my garden is still very far behind, but tough for two people to conquer. My cucumbers are about 1/2″ long and my broccoli has a floret the size of my thumb so thank goodness for professionals who can feed us all the veggies we need from June-October! My challenge this week is to see how creative I can get with everything in our fridge so it doesn’t feel like we are eating the same thing over and over again. I guess you will have to wait and find out next week how it goes. I haven’t had the enthusiasm, or need for that matter, to make anything out of our carrot greens but a true food adventurer (who has more time) probably would. Maybe someday when I am retired…For now I will just feel good about my kale, chard and beet greens and plan on some pretty healthy meals coming up! Meal Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Tuna Garbanzo Salad with Grilled Bread
- Nice and easy summer salad with great flavor!
- I steamed the green beans in the microwave since that is my go-to cooking method.
- We grilled fresh tuna steaks instead as well as some bread to go on the side.
Tuesday: Potato, Bean & Kale Burritos with Eggs (optional)
- This is another recipe from our CSA. Since we are being flooded with greens (kale, chard, beet greens, etc.) this seemed like a good way to use some up.
- Travis fried a few eggs to serve with the burritos to stretch the meal out a bit so we would have more leftovers for lunch the next day. So more like brinner.
Wednesday: Chicken, Apricot & Romaine Salad
- I didn’t include quite as much mint in the salad itself since there was plenty in the dressing but otherwise I followed the recipe.
- When dishes like this or the Tuna Garbanzo Salad call for plating each plate separately I skip that and just toss a big bowl of greens with dressing instead. Even though there are just two of us it still seems silly to dress each plate individually.
Thursday: Lemony Greens Pasta
- Yes, this is a CSA recipe too. I used kale instead of collards since that is what we had this week but any green would do just fine.
- A simple summery pasta dish that is great leftover too. And adding whatever else is in your fridge is highly encouraged!
Friday: Summer Succotash with Basil and Grilled Meat
- I used canned butter beans instead to save time and of course did not allow 1 hour to cool but instead served it hot. You should be able to predict that by now.
- I skipped the celery and tomatoes (sorry!) and went heavy on the basil and vinegar and it was a great, very quick side to go with our grilled meat.
As I sit sweating away in my kitchen with the temperature rising outside to our first day in the 90s this summer, I am definitely a fan of my grilling heavy menu this week. Yes, the grill is hot, but at least it’s outside and doesn’t heat up the house. Plus, I’m not the one who does the grilling. Thanks Travis!! We get used to the 90s here in Colorado during the summer, but the first week of it is always a little extra brutal. And being from Vermont I am not used to this kind of heat and apparently I still haven’t adapted. So cold salads and little to no indoor cooking is the way to go. Travis gave me a subscription to a cooking magazine of my choosing for my birthday so if anyone has any favorites, send them along. I love Eating Well and would like another simple, healthy, weekday friendly magazine for inspiration. I am hoping for more ideas for dinner salads and no-cook meals since summer is just beginning! Menu Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Chicken Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa and a Grilled Veggie
- After rubbing the chicken with spices, we (Travis) of course grilled it.
- Some veggies we like to grill include asparagus, zucchini, okra, peppers, onions and corn. Take your pick! Okra, asparagus and onions we do in foil, the rest can be done on the grill if sliced large enough, in a grill basket or foil. We just season them with oil, salt and pepper before tossing them on the grill.
Tuesday: Pasta Salad with Tuna and Veggies with Greens
- This was a classic summer meal for me growing up. My mom would make this on a hot summer day when it was too warm to cook. It was easily transportable as a picnic to the beach and can be eaten warm or cold.
- Aside from boiling pasta, this does not require any cooking and is a “kitchen sink” kind of dish. Whatever veggies you have in your fridge can go in.
Wednesday: Mexican Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad Wraps
- This recipe breaks my “no cooking” streak for the week, but roasting the sweet potatoes is totally worth it! But they can be steamed instead and pan fried with the spices if you don’t want to heat up your house with an oven.
- I grilled the corn in advance with the chicken on Monday night and cut it off the cob. That way I didn’t have to turn on the grill just for this.
- Chipotle chiles in adobo are hot, so adjust accordingly!
- Since Stella is like her dad and does not “do” vegetarian, I have a stash of meat in our freezer for just such occasions. Some mini-meatloaves, small batches of shredded chicken, and if necessary some chicken sausage. Clearly I am terrified of my daughter’s hanger (hunger/anger) and don’t want to risk being without meat. This girl means business!
Thursday: Steak and Zucchini Salad with Shaved Parmesan
- The zucchini dish was used as inspiration; you better believe I did not spend that much time on a veggie side dish. Yes to steps 2-4, then toss the zucchini and dressing in a bowl and top with cheese, almonds (optional) and lemon zest. Done. We don’t bother with presentation here, particularly not on weeknights with just us.
- If I spend time on the side dishes, then I want the main dish to be super easy. So having Travis just grill a steak, or any piece of meat for that matter, to go with this was both delicious and practical.
Friday: Turkey Burgers with Mango Chutney
- Baguette, English muffins or buns are all good burger holding material to me, so take your pick.
- I like that this burger is covered with toppings: lettuce, grilled onions, and chutney. It makes it a full meal in and of itself but breaks the, “don’t drag it through the garden” rule Travis used to insist on until he learned better (i.e. met me). But if you aren’t a fan of lettuce on your burger in such copious quantities, just make a side salad instead.
- Since the grill was on I added a red bell pepper too and sliced it up on the burger. The onions and pepper can either be grilled in large pieces, rings and halves, or sliced smaller and in foil.