If you’ll allow me to state the obvious for a moment…. it’s hot.

My car thermometer said it was 98 degrees out this afternoon when I was driving to the library with my children. It’s been like this most days for the past week.

It’s hard to get the gumption to really cook when it’s this hot. I’m not saying that I don’t manage to overcome that – I did make Eggplant Parmesan yesterday –  but some days are not worth the extra heat.

A good meal option on those days are “bowls.” If you subscribe to any cooking magazines, especially the ones that bill themselves as being oriented to healthy eating, bowls are not a new concept. They’ve been a fairly major trend for a few years now. I put together the most beautiful, delicious quinoa bowl the other night for dinner, and I wanted to share the methodology.

First, I cooked up some quinoa. I used homemade vegetable stock, which has the benefit of extra vitamins and no added sodium, though you could use packaged stock or water and it’d be fine.

I steamed some summer squash and some peas, rinsed a can of chickpeas, and cut a bunch of cherry tomatoes in half. The ingredients got layered in a large serving dish.

Before adding the cherry tomatoes, I added the dressing. This was partly a choice due to space – I could not have stirred the mixture without making a huge mess after adding the tomatoes – and partly a presentation choice. I used homemade honey mustard dressing. I cannot recommend highly enough this article about making your own salad dressings. It comes with 8 recipes. I’ve tried 2 so far, and both have been winners.

Everything is wonderful about this meal choice. The kitchen isn’t super hot, the meal is a huge protein punch, it’s tasty and colorful, and it’s a kid pleaser! Little Chef currently hates summer squash, so he ate around it, but Littlest Chef gobbled up everything he didn’t end up wearing.

Everything about this recipe is malleable according to your tastes. You could do Italian dressing. You could subtract any of the vegetables and/or add others: red onion, broccoli, cucumbers if you’re serving it cold, etc. Play around; every result manages to look fancy, even though it’s pleasantly simple.

Happy eating!

Sweet Potato Bean Bowls

Because of the heat, my share from Greengrocer Foodhub got delivered today, instead of yesterday. It feels a little silly to list off these shares, since I pick the items myself, but here goes anyway! Beets (and HOLY HELL, LOOK AT THOSE BEETS), white onions, red onions, cucumber, sweet potatoes, garlic, and raspberries.

Well, this was a blessing, because I was really itching for something with sweet potatoes for dinner. I started flipping through my recipe index, and came across 2 recipes that had potential, but I lacked some ingredients for each. “Smoky Sweet Potato Bowl” from Clean Eating, and “Sweet potatoes with Cilantro and Black Beans” from Simple & Delicious.

So,  I decided to make my own crossover. I started by scrubbing the sweet potatoes. I cubed them – skins on, that’s where the vitamins are – and tossed them in olive oil, chili powder, paprika, a little salt, and maple sugar.

Then, I roasted them low and slow – 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.

It was at about this point in the process that I lost my audience.

In a pan, I sauteed a red onion, finely chopped, until it started to soften. Then I added a generous helping (A cup? Cup and a half? I eyeballed it) of corn, and a can of red beans. I wanted black, but it turns out that I had none left in my pantry. I let that all cook for a bit before adding in the sweet potatoes and a couple of heaping tablespoonfuls of salsa. I heated the whole mixture through.

This got plated into bowls and topped (for the grown-ups) with a dollop of sour cream and a generous handful of chives. Little chef didn’t want sour cream.

It was SO GOOD. The pictures barely do it justice. And I’m thrilled, because this would be easy to stretch for company, and it was super easy. After a weekend filled with junk food, this was a refreshing reset.

Eggplant Sandwiches

There’s a pub nearby me – Oak Barrel Pub, if you’re curious – that has an outstanding eggplant sandwich. Instead of a traditional eggplant parm, with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella, this sandwich has the fried eggplant slices on a baguette with balsamic, tomato, fresh mozzarella and arugula.

Last night, I made a healthy, at-home version of this sandwich with the eggplant and radish greens I got in my share from Coeur et Sol and the tomatoes from Montclair-Bloomfield, and the result was delicious.

I sliced the eggplant and breaded it – fairly usual, an egg wash and breadcrumbs that were a mix of Italian seasoned and Panko.

I then baked them on a cookie sheet at 350. I didn’t time how long – when they’re browning, they’re good.  I flipped them halfway through.

Sandwich assembly, then back into the oven to heat the cheese through….

And the finished product. So satisfying.

Beautiful Dinner

Dinner was beautiful tonight.

We had a colorful salad, consisting of salad mix, pea shoots, baby salad turnips, and radish flowers from the Coeur et Sol farm share. It also included a cranberry/raisin/blueberry mix, shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes, and basil orange balsamic chicken.

To make the chicken, I cubed boneless/skinless breast and marinaded it in a ziploc bag. The marinade was a little bit of EVOO, balsamic vinegar, basil from my own container garden, some garlic powder, and a healthy splash of orange juice. After letting it marinade in the fridge for an hour or so, I cooked it in a chef pan over medium-high heat until the chicken was done.

Last week, at Chelsa’s recommendation, we ate sliced breakfast radishes on toasted, buttered bread. Tonight, as a variant on that, I made garlic bread from a loaf of ciabatta bread, and then we topped it with sliced French breakfast radishes (from Coeur et Sol) and fresh chives (from my window box). Heaven.

Little Chef is vehemently against salad at the moment, so he had  his meal in pieces, with the addition of some hummus and some almonds.

Food that looks good, tastes good, and makes you feel good. Ohhhh, late spring, welcome back.


Kale Chips

File this one under “Stevie, you’re the last to get on the train.” I know kale chips have been a “thing” for years, now. I tried them a while back – my friend made her own – and I wasn’t too into them. It’s been several years, though, and I had a batch of small, tender kale, so I decided to give it a shot.

I dried the kale, then drizzled it with olive oil, then massaged it to get the oil all over the leaves. In a mixing bowl with a lid, I made a spice mix – garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika, and nutritional yeast, though you could obviously do any combination that suits your fancy. After that, I added the kale, put the lid on the bowl, and shook to cover the leaves.

I then arranged them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked at 350. I turned them once, and I think total I left them in for about 15 minutes. Really, you need to just watch them for consistency, because the thickness of the kale you have will affect the amount of baking time required.

I waited to salt them until after they were baked. I think I overdid it on the salt by a little bit, but otherwise, they’re pretty darn good! We’re supposed to go hiking tomorrow, and I’ll bring them as one of our snacks.

Easter Leftovers III: Soup Time

Leftovers often mean soup. Any time there’s a big portion of meat served, it’s almost a guarantee that soup will be one of the eventual leftovers.

Soup went two ways with this ham.

First, I went with split pea soup. It’s pretty traditional to use ham with split pea. I used ham stock that I made from the ham bone, plus I sauteed pieces of meat that then boiled in with the peas.

The last time I made split pea soup, it came out much thicker than I like. This time? It came out thinner than I like. I’m still learning. To compensate a little, I chunked up the soup by  adding some mixed vegetables near the end.

I’m very proud of the other direction I went with soup leftovers. This was a riff on a “Portugese Kale and Sausage Soup” that I’ve made many times. The soup works well with basically any smoky meat and any dark green. I’ve used sausage, kielbasa, and now ham, and I’ve used kale, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, and beet greens.

I sauteed onions and the ham, added spices and broth, and added the greens… and then the secret ingredient that really makes this soup special: brown mustard. If you’re looking for more of a zing, you could add hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or even horseradish. We tend to leave it to the individual servings to spice up.

Both of these soups freeze & reheat well.

Microgreen Meatballs

Tonight was a low-maintenance night. That’s been the pattern of late – larger meals on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday… a leftover night on Wednesday, something easy on Thursday, and then a “picnic in the living room” on Friday nights (which usually means tapas, but will be homemade pizza this week) along with a movie. Thus, tonight was a spaghetti night, and I did not expect to find myself posting about anything.

However… I still had some signature mix left over from this week’s microgreen share. I also miraculously still have some ground turkey from my poultry share in my freezer. I’m perfectly happy to have eggplant croquettes with pasta, but my 3 year old son’s reaction last week was essentially, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Where are the meatballs?” I’ve historically put fresh parsley into my meatballs, and I figured that parsley was of a comparable hardiness to the microgreens, so why not give it a shot?

They turned out quite tasty, though next time I’d like to use a larger quantity to get a stronger flavor. I worked with what I had, though. Regardless, I’m content that I wheedled a little extra nutrition into my preschooler via his beloved meatballs tonight.

Microgreen Meatless Monday

I haven’t been blogging much about my microgreens. I’m new to the world of these tiny vitamin powerhouses, and I’m definitely on a learning curve. (I’ve been finding some interesting articles, though it has taken some creative keyword selection. Most of the information you find when searching “microgreens” relates to growing, rather than cooking.) To add to the learning time, it’s midterm season around here, so my student load is… well… insane. This means that I’ve mostly been using my microgreens as garnish on top of sandwiches or soup, which is not bad or inappropriate in the slightest; it’s just not really noteworthy.

Tonight was different. I got a real burst of inspiration, and I’m so thrilled with how it came out. I had lots of odds and ends to use up in my fridge, and I ran with the Meatless Monday theme. The result ended up being a tempeh, soba noodle, and vegetable salad, and it was sooooooo good.

First, I cubed some tempeh this afternoon and let it marinate. The marinade was a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, and maple syrup.

The rest of the work came closer to dinner time, as nothing took a particularly large amount of effort or time. I stir-fried the tempeh and big vegetables (broccoli, bell pepper, sugar snap peas) over high heat – I was going for a bit of a sear. I added the sugar snap peas last, because I did not want them to cook much.

Meanwhile, I cooked and drained the soba noodles – I only used one bundle, since that’s what I had left in my pantry – and rinsed them in cold water. After the vegetables had their quick pass in the  pan, I dumped them in a big salad bowl and stuck them in the fridge for a little while to cool.

Meanwhile, I made the dressing – some EVOO, garlic vinegar, basil-flower-and-orange vinegar (that I began steeping in September), honey, and brown mustard. This made WAY too much dressing, but I’m refrigerating the extra and will use it on salads.

Then, I began to assemble the salad. In went the soba noodles…

… and the greens.

The greens, by the way, were a mixture. I used the remaining garnet mustard from last week, as well as a hefty amount of the signature mix (which is brassica-heavy) and a bit of the alfalfa sprouts. I also threw in some basil leaves from the plant that’s hanging out on my windowsill currently.

A quick toss with some dressing…


Happy Meatless Monday, everyone!

Easy, healthy dinner from the freezer

Remember how I talked about making vegetable soup base a while back? Two nights ago, I used one of these babies to make a comforting dinner on the fly.

While I defrosted the pre-made soup starter, I sauteed a package of chicken and apple sausages (frozen from my summer poultry share from Griggstown Farm). I deglazed the pan with a little white wine and then added some zucchini I’d blanched and frozen in the summer.

After making sure the sausage had cooked through, I added the vegetable soup base and a package of edamame from Trader Joe’s. I brought the soup up to boiling for a few minutes and then cut the heat. Ta-da! Dinner was done.

We actually topped the soup with the remainder of the pea shoots from last week’s microgreen delivery, but I was hungry/disorganized enough that I did not think to take a picture of my bowl. Next time!

Squash Pasta Sauce

Life is so cozy at this moment. The snow is falling, there is vegetable broth simmering on the stove, I’ve got spaghetti sauce steeping low-n-slow in the crock pot, and the house is covered in Christmas decorations.

…also I’ve been forced to downshift because my son is sick. This is the second day in a row I’ve kept him home from school, so I’ve needed to focus on what I can do at home.

It occurred to me that I have a huge backlog of photos of recipes that I’ve made recently, but I haven’t taken the time to post about them. I’ll start here and then queue up some further posts for you to enjoy over the course of a few days, while I slide into the last-week-before-Christmas prepping madness.

Since I’ve got regular marinara sauce going in the crock pot right now, let me tell you about the delicious pasta sauce I made the other night.

I’ve still been working my way through the remaining squash from the stock-up share. For this recipe, I used the front-most squash in this picture, which I’m fairly certain is a hokkaido squash. The squashes in the stock-up share are tricky, because I don’t get the benefit of a label. There are SO MANY winter squash varieties! 

I roasted the squash. The easiest method (in my opinion) for roasting winter squash, when you are just aiming for puree, is to cut the squash in half, seed it, and put it cut-side down in a pyrex dish with about 1/2 inch of water. Cook the squash in a 400 degree oven until it is tender – usually about 45 minutes, though that varies with the size of the squash.

Once the squash was roasted, I started sauteeing some garlic in some EVOO. I then proceeded to make a roux… though I made it with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Almond Milk instead of regular milk. I’ve been shying away from dairy, and I had  this open in the fridge. The flavor combo seemed obvious, too.

You can make a vegan roux by using olive oil and almond milk instead of butter and milk. Follow the same method you would for a traditional roux.
This is delicious in coffee, as well.

I stirred in the squash puree, along with some spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika.

I’d intended to use diced tomatoes, but it turns out I’d run out of them. I used crushed instead, and it worked out fine. I used half of a large can of crushed tomatoes, and then added salt and pepper to taste.

The final product! I boiled some pasta – in this case, trio italiano veggie pasta. I also sauteed chicken and apple sausage in a chef pan before adding the pasta and sauce. If you forego the sausage, the meal is vegan. I recommend saving some of the starchy pasta water in case you need to thin the sauce; I did add a splash at the end.

This dinner was delicious, and my experiment actually yielded enough sauce to freeze some to use another time. It reheated well the next day, as well.