Tag Archives: whole foods

Made-from-Scratch Sunday

Now that the holidays are over, my body is in dire need of some healthy food. I can feel it.

No, not diet food. Not low-calorie food. Just homemade, nutrient-packed, scratch-made REAL food. It does a body good, you know. ;) My goal each week is to cook as much as possible on Sunday in hopes that it will take a little bit of the pressure off during the week, when there is just NO time. I’ve gotta feel good about what I’m feeding my boys!

And so begins Made-From-Scratch Sunday! Some recipes will be mine, some will be links to my favorites. If you all like it, it just may become a regular thing.

So I went searching some of my favorite internet spots for inspiration, and they did not disappoint.

My trip to Eating Well Magazine‘s site yielded this Cumin-Scented Wheatberry Lentil Soup:

A peek into my kitchen:

My little man just LOVES lentils!

My pal Lisa at Lisa’s Foods on the Move has given me the kick in the butt I need to get baking with her newest venture: baking her own bread for a year! A visit to Lisa’s blog never fails to center me and remind me of the way I want to be living, so I’m going to embark on her venture with her (sort of…)  I’m not sure I’ll make it the whole year, but I HATE paying money for storebought bread when I can make a fresh loaf myself, at home, so I set my sights on the No-Knead Bread recipe she recommended. Here are the lovely, golden brown results:

I also felt like I needed some rolls to accompany our soup, so I made the recipe that has been stalking me from the back of our bag of flour…(This recipe will be a part of next week’s Made-From-Scratch Sunday…I promise!)

Here’s a preview:

I hate to leave you hanging, but I’m fading fast tonight, and my bed is looking really good. You see, the lovely SaltyTooth mentioned fresh butter in a recent post, and with all this bread around, I felt like I just had to get shakin’! And now, I’m tired! (but my arms are ripped!)

Shake, shake, shake…and shake a little more…

I told you I was feeling inspired…I made butter rosettes! Fancy! And so pretty on homemade bread…

And now, I’m pooped. And a tummy full of warm soup and bread doesn’t help!

But, at the end of the day, I think we just might have the most delicious compost in town.

I hope I’ve spread the made-from-scratch inspiration!

‘Nite, all!

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What’s your favorite thing to make from scratch?

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Sweet Potato Casserole, with a Sunny Twist!

Shhhh...don’t tell the Santa. I’ve been a very naughty blogger.

I’ve been just terrible about taking photos lately, and it’s been an eternity since I’ve passed along a good recipe.

But I’d like to make it up to you with my favorite sweet potato casserole recipe!

As a kid, I love the toasted marshmallow casserole that came loaded with brown sugar. But now, I’m kind of over it. I’ve replaced the candy-fest with a casserole that’s just different enough to pique everyone’s interest at the holiday dinner table, and just traditional enough that everyone will welcome it as a familiar favorite. It has the warmth of autumn’s sweet potato harvest and the bright, sunny taste of orange, nestled under a sweet, tangy topping with just a little crunch.

Yom. :D

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but it actually comes from Eating Well Magazine. (Brilliant folks, they are. Eating Well never lets me down!) To find the original recipe, click here.

Those familiar with my blog will know that I couldn’t just leave the recipe as is, untinkered with, so I made a few small changes to suit my tastes. (I cut the salt in half, substituted agave nectar for the honey, left out the eggs and butter, and used coconut oil rather than canola. I also added some dried cranberries for texture and a tangy kick of flavor.)

But I did leave ALL of the freshly grated orange zest. In fact, I may have gone a bit heavy on it. It’s my favorite part of this recipe, and one of my favorite ingredients in general because it adds SO much fresh flavor, eliminating (or cutting down) the need for less healthy ingredients like fat, sugar and salt.

And although I don’t have a recipe photo for you, I do have a photo of the very beginning of the taters we used to make this casserole for Thanksgiving. (A small reminder that colder weather will NOT last forever…the green will come back someday!)

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe, with a Sunny Twist!

adapted from Eating Well Magazine

Sweet Potato Casserole:

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk (may substitute coconut milk for a vegan recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Topping

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons frozen orange juice concentrate (frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preparation:

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, 10–15 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan. Mash with a potato masher. Measure out 3 cups. (Reserve any extra for another use.)
  2. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Coat an 8″ square (or similar 2-qt) baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Whisk oil and agave nectar in a medium bowl. Add mashed sweet potato and mix well. Stir in milk, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Add cranberries and stir to distribute evenly throughout mixture. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish.*
  4. To prepare topping: Mix flour, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate and oil in a small bowl. Blend with a fork or your fingertips until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over the casserole.
  5. Bake casserole until heated through and the top is lightly browned, 35–45 minutes.

*A note to those with toddlers: I think this is a great toddler recipe, but there are many differing opinions on when to introduce nuts and/or tree nuts to your child. If you are concerned about reactions with the pecans in this recipe, reserve a small amount of sweet potato mixture for baby before adding the cranberries and pecan topping.

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Could you eat the same thing every day?

When I talk about cooking in batches so that my family can avoid fast food and eat well even when our schedule is out of control, I often get the same response:

“Oh, I couldn’t do that. I can’t eat the same thing 2 days in a row.”

Really? My first reaction is “Sheesh. Picky much?:roll:

Not me. In fact, back when my relationship with food was, well, less than healthy, I ate the same exact thing for 12 weeks straight.

Yup, every day, the same food. I figured out the calories, and in my mind, I couldn’t go wrong. Here was my menu (I don’t think I’ll ever forget it):

  • Breakfast: One double fiber English muffin with one Morningstar Farms meatless sausage patty
  • Lunch: One frozen diet entree (approx. 300 calories)
  • Dinner: 3 oz tilapia and one bag of Steamfresh broccoli

That was it, for 12 weeks straight. It worked, too – I lost a good 25 pounds!

Since then, however, I’ve learned that such monotony is no way to live, and that kind of restriction and deprivation aren’t healthy for my body, mind or spirit. Losing the processed foods and experimenting with more whole ingredients reminded me of the wide world of beautiful food out there that I was missing, and I’ve been on a new, much more balanced path ever since…

But, one aspect of the diet stuck with me: How EASY it was! Admittedly, it was no way to achieve and maintain good health, but knowing exactly what I needed at the store, and exactly what I would be cooking each night, took a ton of weight off my shoulders!

So, now that my schedule is beyond maxed out, I’m calling on the better parts of my old diet plan to help me stay on target! Those prepared, processed and even “drive-thru” foods look SO good on nights when it’s late and I’m tired, but they sure don’t make me feel good at all (and now that little man is eating with us, I have to plan meals with as many natural and organic ingredients that he can enjoy, too.) So my new mission is to write up a menu when I get a little time during the week, shop on Sunday, and prepare as much as possible in advance to help my weekday self out!

Last week’s plan? I roasted a chicken on Sunday and served it with homemade gravy, smashed potatoes and spinach from our winter garden.

On Monday, shredded chicken was tucked into tortillas with a touch of cheese to make quesadillas. We paired them with some fresh organic salsa, guacamole, hummus and a touch of plain Greek yogurt (all of Little Man’s favorites! You should have seen him chow down!

On Tuesday, the small amount of remaining chicken was sauteed in a skillet with some garlic, then layered in a bowl with black beans and the remainder of the salsa, guac, and yogurt.

By Wednesday, we were ready for something different, so we had easy baked salmon, leftover black beans and steamed veggies (an extra salmon filet doubled as lunch at Grammie’s house for 2 extra days!)

Thursday? Pizza piled high with mushrooms and diced veggies from our summer garden harvest. For Little Man, some lentil veggie blend that we had on hand for him (no pizza for him just yet!)

(Sure, you could argue that chicken 3 nights in a row is a lot, but to make a chicken stretch that far, the actual portion sizes need to be really small. We do a lot of meatless nights, but when we do eat meat, we try to make sure it is only a small component in the meal.)

Bonus? There was almost nothing last week that my husband couldn’t help prepare! There wasn’t one night all week that either of us spent more than 10 minutes preparing dinner!

This week? A turkey! I’m thinking sandwiches, followed by soup with lots of fresh veggies!

As a blogger and admitted foodie, I’d much rather be preparing interesting meals off the cuff each night, based on what’s fresh and seasonal and what “food mood” I might be in at that particular moment, but right now it just isn’t an option, and I have to be realistic. There have been too many nights when the day’s gotten away from me and we wind up with no plan for dinner, and that’s when unhealthy foods infiltrate my kitchen. I have a responsibility not only to my family, but to myself as well, to make good, real food a priority.

And to those who say “No” to eating the same thing a few days in a row, I would just say that I’m very thankful to have the choice!

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Do you ever cook in batches, or plan your meals in advance? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Easy Pumpkin Pie Dip

If there’s one flavor that defines the holiday season for me (besides maybe peppermint for Christmas) it’s pumpkin. (Have I mentioned this before?) :)

I love pumpkin. I love it in pies, cakes, breads, lattes, fudge, you name it. But, those things don’t always fit in with my mission to stick with wholesome, natural, real foods. Pumpkin is very healthy and nutrient-rich, but all the sugar, whipped cream, and other things we muck it up with are most definitely not.

That’s why I love the days between Halloween and Thanksgiving, when pumpkins and winter squash are abundant, and super cheap! If you haven’t already visited your local farm stand, drop what you’re doing and go. NOW!

I did, and I brought ALL these beauties home for a mere $3 total! The Cinderella pumpkin alone should yield at least 16 cups. How’s that for maximizing your food dollar? :)

What? You’ve never cooked a pumpkin? You’re not alone. Most people I come across tell me that they would, but they don’t know how. Pumpkins (and all winter squash), with their hard, intimidating exterior can be offputting.  But, fresh pumpkin has SO  many benefits:

  • Your purchase can help support a local farmer.
  • Fresh produce hasn’t lost any nutrient content through processing.
  • No can! Cans can leach toxic things into your pumpkin, not to mention they have to be transported, recycled, blah, blah, yuck.

If these things are important to you, you’re in luck! It really is extremely easy to prepare a pumpkin for your favorite recipe! There are several ways, but here’s my method:

  • Wash pumpkin.
  • Split pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Cut halves into wedges if they are large.
  • Put pumpkin, cut side down, into a baking dish with about 1″ of water. (Check water and add more if it gets too low during baking.)
  • Bake at 350 degrees until fork tender.
  • Remove from oven, let cool. Scoop out flesh (use an ice cream scooper!) and use in your favorite recipe! (I like to put mine in the food processor for a quick whirrr if it looks fibrous. )

My favorite way to use our stash of fresh pumpkin puree? Pumpkin Butter!


Find details on my recipe here.

Keep pumpkin butter in your fridge throughout the fall and winter. You can use it on toast, in oatmeal, for baking, even over ice cream. And if you’re heading to or hosting a party, here’s the easiest holiday recipe ever!

Pumpkin Pie Dip

  • 1 cup pumpkin butter (the thicker, the better)
  • 8 oz neufchatel cheese

Combine ingredients in a bowl; whip until smooth. Add extra cinnamon or nutmeg to taste. Serve with gingersnaps or graham crackers. (For a little extra flair, serve dip in a tiny, hollowed out sugar pumpkin!)

*This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Is it healthy? Well, that’s all relative, isn’t it? Sure, it has a little fat and some sugar, but if you’re looking for the true taste of fall made with real ingredients, fresh produce and nothing artificial,  this might be right up your alley (and you’re probably supporting a local grower while you’re at it!  :D )

Put it on the buffet and watch it fly! Happy entertaining, everyone!

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After the Holiday Feast: Turkey Pot Pie

In the spirit of holiday giving, I bring you my favorite Turkey Pot Pie recipe! It is in keeping with my mission to feed my family real food while sticking to a budget and stretching your holiday dollar…and now I’m happy to share it with YOU!

Origin of this recipe: While my husband is totally down with our mission to eradicate processed food from our household, there are a few things he missed from his bachelor days. Those nasty $.69 pot pies from the freezer aisle rank at the very top of the list. One look at the ingredients list on those things and you’ll understand why I love this recipe. During the holidays, there are two things you can count on: a craving for comfort food and lots of leftover turkey. This warm, hearty pie takes care of both, with real, natural ingredients you can feel good about.

This is my own recipe, based on one I found years ago. I will not cite that one, however, because it was terrible and didn’t work at all. I ended up tossing all of my ingredients, and starting over with my own very modified version.

(Note: this recipe makes enough filling for 2 pies. Bake one now, and freeze the rest to toss into a crust later!)

ABCGP Turkey Pot Pie

  • Your favorite crust recipe for a double-crusted 9″ pie
  • 2 T butter
  • 2/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cans (14.25 oz each) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups diced leftover turkey (use more or less if desired)
  • 1 cup fresh peas, steamed
  • 1 cup fresh corn, steamed
  • 3 large carrots, steamed and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Saute onions and butter in deep skillet until onions are translucent and starting to brown.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine flour, salt, pepper and thyme. Whisk in one can of broth until there are no lumps. Pour mixture into pan, stirring to incorporate onions and butter. Add the other can of broth; blend.

Add all vegetables* and turkey to mixture in pan. Whisk in milk.

Allow mixture to bubble over low to medium heat until slightly thickened, approx 10 minutes.

Spray a 9″ pie pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Line with bottom pastry crust. Fill with 1/2 turkey mixture (place 1/2 of turkey mixture in freezer for future use, or make 2 pies.)

Place top crust on pie. Cut slits in top crust to vent steam. Trim and seal edges.

Bake at 425 degrees for 35–

40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes; serve.

* I use different vegetables each time I use this. It is especially good with fresh vegetables (including corn cut from the cob) but frozen work just fine, too. Try using leftover vegetables from your holiday meal! Or leave out the meat and double the veggies, vegetarian-style!

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