Hello and Happy Sunday! Glad you are here because I have something to talk about. It’s superfoods. I am guessing you have heard this term – it’s been a bit of a buzz word in recent years. In a nutshell, a superfood is a food that packs a lot of nutrition into its calories. Blueberries, salmon, walnuts, broccoli – superfoods. Brie and ice cream – sorry, no. But here is my point of this post today – if you love brie and ice cream, EAT THE BRIE AND ICE CREAM. Or the mac and cheese. Or the bread, or whatever other food that we think we should not ever have anywhere near us, unless we are using it to deliver 40 lashes to ourselves.
Just Superfood It.
What do I mean by superfood it? I mean have that thing that you enjoy, that brings you pleasure, that makes your tummy and taste buds go YAAAAAAYYY!!!. Just add in some extra nutrition. If you are consuming calories anyway, might as well make them do some good work for you. Let me lay out some examples:
Let’s talk about that brie. One of my favorites, actually. Yes, it is divine slathered thickly onto a baguette, which you could do, but you could also put it onto a seeded dark, sour Scandinavian bread. You can sprinkle it with crushed flax seeds. You could spread the bread with kale pesto. Add the nutrition.
Here’s another one. Do you know how easy it is to make homemade flatbread? It is really easy. So, if you make it at home you can sub some of the white flour for whole wheat. Add psyllium husk for fiber, seeds for omega-3, finely chopped spinach for folate, vitamin A, vitamin K. Delicious. Eat the bread. It’s good for you (unless it isn’t, of course, due to a medical condition – then don’t – it’s not good for you),
Now, let’s get to that ice cream. This is an easy one. Pile on the blueberries, walnuts, ginger. Try some dark chocolate, pomegranate seeds, almonds. Add the good, don’t worry about denying what you love.
I will be talking plenty more about superfooding your life. Check back!
So, I have have this meal plan, for subscribers. I also plan meals for my family. I try to have it make sense so that I don’t end up with too many random bits but, inevitably, there are some. Since I hate waste (so much), I refuse to let the bits die, but rather rework them into new (hopefully) exciting meals. Case in point: recently I needed to make dinner for my family of 7 and this is what I identified as being available:
plenty of eggs
about 1/2 of a pint of cream
1 sweet potato
roughly 4 oz of kale
1 small bag of cauliflower
about 5 2 inch pieces of herbed chicken from 2 nights ago
roughly half a cup of shredded cheese
one cup-ish of cooked rice and a bit less of uncooked
somewhere between a cup and two of mashed potatoes
None of these components can be used as is for a meal. There isn’t even one piece of chicken per person, and are we all going to battle over the sweet potato? Of course not. It’s ok, though, these can all be reworked and transformed into an actual meal.
Oil the bottom of a baking pan. Spread those mashed potatoes in a thin layer along the bottom. Whisk 5 of the eggs with the cream. Chop up the chicken and sprinkle it over the potatoes. Salt and pepper the egg mixture, pour it over the chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle on the cheese. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.
Chop up the sweet potato, onion, cauliflower. Toss with oil, salt and favorite spice mix (today it’s Justice from Penzey’s). Roast for 20 minutes, add in the kale and cook another 10/15.
Cook the bit of rice and add it to the already cooked. Toss with oil (we are even out of butter!) and more Justice blend.
Suddenly, I have chicken and cheese quiche with potato crust (bonus for my keto kid), roasted mixed veg, and flavored rice. An actual meal! From nothing! Triumph.
The thing is, though it can seem daunting, it’s really not that hard. There are so many ways to use the bits. There are blank canvases that can be painted on with whatever you have on hand. Quiche, soup, casserole, stir fry, “bowls” – these can all become your very own refrigerator masterpiece.
Alternately, there are those times that you have too much left of just one thing. Bag of carrots, for example, just needed one, no one in the house likes to munch on carrot sticks. My favorite way to use them up is making “carrot pudding” – basically boiled mashed carrots mixed with a few tablespoons of cashew butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, then whipped up to a light consistency. For a little more of a treat I will add a bit of maple syrup.
Another example: I have a bag of frozen peas, recipe only needs half the bag. What do I do with the other? I smash the warmed peas with good olive oil, salt and any left over fresh herbs that I have hanging around. Then I spread it on toast and dig out the last feta cheese crumbles left from that Greek salad. Drizzle of oil before I bite into it.
Think of having a handful or two of a few different things in your refrigerator and pantry as an opportunity for a new meal, not as lost waste that will go in the bin. After 4 or 5 nights of cooking, you likely will have a few things to easily make another meal that is both budget and effort friendly. It is also an opportunity to stretch your kitchen creativity and skills, so take advantage. Fear not the leftover bits – they are your friend!
To get you started, here are a few recipes that can have the ingredients swapped out easily for what you have lying around, or simply added to the basic recipe:
Welp, there it is. My first grass covered sneaker Saturday morning – the first of plenty. Cutting the grass is one of those chores that I not only don’t mind, but actually kind of enjoy, especially at the beginning of the season. I get so tired of the gray by the end of the winter. When all the green starts returning I kind of turn into this
(Just ignore the fact that these were taken in winter – dogs just get excited all the time – they don’t know any better.)
The spring air and the influx of color definitely give me an energy boost.
I feel the same way in the stores at this time of year. New green abundance shows up – asparagus, watercress, fiddleheads (here in the North East, anyway – idk about other parts of the country), artichokes, peas. So yum and inspiring! There are so many great ways to use these, in salads, pastas, dips, sandwiches. Today, though, calls for pizza. It’s a weekend afternoon, we’ve worked hard and now it is time for some tasty, healthy comforting spring on a plate. When you try this out, feel free to use your favorite pizza dough recipe,or alternative – cauli-crust, gluten free, etc – or use this one that I like. Hopefully you can eat it surrounded by green and flowers and with your grassy sneakered feet up.
About 10 thin or 8 large stalks of asparagus, woody ends cut or snapped off, stalks shaved or cut thinly
1 ½ cups watercress
2-3 oz prosciutto
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 scallion, sliced
Several tbsps chopped fresh dill
Heat oven to 450. Stretch and/or roll out the pizza dough into a circle or rectangle and place it onto a lined or oiled pan. Brush some olive oil over the pizza then spread the ricotta over it. Crack some pepper all over the cheese. Next, pile on the asparagus and watercress. Place the prosciutto around on top of the vegetables then sprinkle on the dill. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned in spots. Remove from the oven and scatter the radishes and scallion over the top before serving.
Note: I have written this in a way that is meant to work in any kitchen with any supplies. If you have a pizza stone and peel or backyard pizza oven or some other perfect set up, then by all means use your best available method. This pizza (as any, imho) would be delicious on the grill.
Do you ever want something, but not really that thing, but kind of that thing, so you have to come up with a new thing? Like when it sounds good to be lounging on the beach in the warm sun with an over the top cocktail but it’s winter and vacation is months away so you sit under your strongest lamp with a rum and pineapple juice that has a crazy Lego thing cobbled together to approximate an umbrella? No? Just me? Ok, how about when you see an outfit combo that hits all your “THAT’S what I’m talking about” buttons but it comes with a price tag that hits your bank account’s “look away” alarms? You don’t give it up – you adjust and recreate. You take the spirit of the thing and drape it over your own interpretation. You work it for yourself. It was kind of like that when I came up with this recipe. I saw someone mention a smoothie with apples, lemon, celery, and parsley. That sounded intriguing, except for the smoothie part, so I tossed around the flavors until I hit on this non-chunky-liquid way to enjoy them. Bingo. Success. Those flavors, in the form I want. I am sure this salad would work well with your favorite fancy non-Lego-umbrella cocktail.
Apple Celery Salad
2 large apples, cored and thinly sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced (preferably on the diagonal)
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps whole grain mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
Mix together the oil, mustard and lemon juice with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss this with the apples, celery, and parsley. Taste to adjust salt and pepper.
The first day back to school after a vacation is always a tough one. The week of later bedtimes, days of freedom and lowered demands make the return to regular life feel a little grind-y (for me as well as the kids). To ease the transition I like to have something nice on those days. It might be a doughnut on the way to school or a special activity planned after. It always involves extra hugs (mostly for me) and a beloved dinner. This time that dinner ended up being mac and cheese. Now, I don’t want to brag (or maybe I do), but my home made mac and cheese is something to celebrate. It’s not difficult or complicated, just simple and delicious. I make many variations – with bacon and smoked cheese, or beans and pepper jack, for example, but for the small mac fans in the family, the folks effected by the school return, straight up traditional is the way to their hearts.
Here’s the rub, though – one family member with a lactose intolerance and another who has gone keto*. Welp, THAT complicates things. Luckily, the mac and cheese recipe is simple enough that it leaves time and room to make other components of the meal. This night that was teriyaki steak tips and a simple oiled and salted pile of spring mix (my absolute fave). Perfect. Everyone happy. Maybe even happy enough to get up a little easier for the next round of school. Find the recipes below.
Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb elbows or any short pasta, I like to use penne
4 tbs butter
¼ cup flour
3.5 c milk, warmed
½ lb sharp cheddar, grated
½ lb emmental or jarlsberg, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional, only for baked version:
4tbs butter, melted
2 c bread crumbs
Put your water on to boil. While waiting for it to boil is a good time to grate your cheese. If you bought time saving pre-grated, all the better. Pour yourself a glass of wine or make a cup of tea. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two so your cheese sauce doesn’t taste like flour. Add about half of the milk and whisk until smooth and then do the same with the other half. Cook this over medium until it thickens up. Meanwhile, the water has likely boiled so pour in your pasta. Check it after about 8-10 minutes. Very important – do not let it go mushy! It is ready when there is no hint of crunch but you still feel some *there* there. It shouldn’t all but disappear between your teeth. Drain when you deem it done. Back to the sauce – mix in the grated cheese a couple of handfuls at a time. When it is all incorporated, taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Pour in the pasta and mix until all the pasta is covered. If you are not baking, it is ready to be spooned out and enjoyed. If you are going for the baked version, preheat the oven to 375. Place the mixed mac and cheese into a casserole pan. Mix the bread crumbs into the melted butter and spread the mixture evenly over the mac and cheese. Bake this for about half an hour, until the bread crumbs are nicely browned and the casserole is bubbly.
2 lbs steak tips (or turkey tips if you can find them)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
⅓ cup soy sauce
¼ cup maple syrup
1-2 inch piece of ginger, grated
Lightly salt the tips. Mix together the garlic, soy sauce, syrup and ginger. Toss the tips well in this mixture and let them sit for 10-15 minutes (longer if you have the time). Heat a bit of oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add the tips in batches, being careful not to crowd them into the pan. Cook for a few minutes on each side. The time will vary greatly depending on the size of the pieces, how well done you like your steak, or if you are cooking turkey tips. As you likely know, the turkey needs to beef cooked fully through – there is no rare option here. You have wiggle room with the beef. I will sometimes cut larger pieces for faster cooking, but usually cook ours 3-4 minutes per side (cooking on just 2 sides – they almost always have irregular shapes) and that gets us medium rare on big tips. You will just have to check and experiment.
*I mention keto, but this tips recipe is NOT. Said diner has relaxed his keto-ness some, so though this works for him, if you are following a strict keto diet, this is not for you. I haven’t tried it but you could try subbing the maple syrup with erythritol sweetener.
A while back I made a mistake in my meal plan (if you don’t know about the meal plan you can learn about it here). Now, this did 2 things: 1) freaked me out because I hate mistakes – not because I rationally think they are a big deal but because my irrational anxiety brain freaks out. It just does. But 2) it made me think about how that mistake highlighted my whole goal of helping people confidently step away from always needing a recipe when they cook.
Here is how it went down. A subscriber wrote and pointed out that in the method portion of the recipe I mention adding the honey but there was no honey listed in the ingredients. Oops. I fixed it asap, but also thought back to why it happened and how it could be a helpful thing on which to shine a light. I knew immediately the reason: I was undecided about the honey. I made a carrot salad and had tried it both with and without honey, and liked it both ways. I hadn’t decided right down to the wire, so even changed my mind mid recipe writing – decided no while listing out ingredients, but apparently yes while writing up the method. Because, guess what – they were both good! Long story short, a recipe is more often that not a guide rather than a rule. Try things out. Mix things up. Follow your own path. Here is the recipe. Try it both ways and see what you think.
Shredded Carrot and Radish Salad
4 medium/large carrots, grated
4 medium/large radishes, grated
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Mix juice, oil and honey until the honey has dissolved into the liquid. Toss the carrots, radishes and chives together with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
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