Broccoli/Zuchinni Polonaise

I made this last night along with lentil burgers and roasted butternut squash and it was so good that I didn’t get any of the leftovers today! I wanted an easy and tasty way to eat up a bunch of green veggies in the fridge, and so I turned to the sauces chapter of my Joy of Cooking. I had already steamed zucchini and broccoli, diced into about 1/2″ pieces. Then I made up this buttery breadcrumb sauce and dumped it on top! Takes about 5 minutes tops.

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts minced (or a few teaspoons of other onion)
  • 1 slice of bread, turned into breadcrumbs (toasted if you want to be fancy)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Splash of white wine vinegar or lemon

Melt the butter in a small pan until it starts to brown. Add the breadcrumbs, onions, and salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for a few minutes until it looks and smells delicious. Toss with the steamed veggies and a splash of vinegar.

 

Chicken and Rice (Easy Pseudo-Paella)

I’ve been making lots of chicken stock and shredded chicken to have ready in the freezer, thanks to the organic 2-packs of whole chicken at Costco. So, I’ve been looking for easy chicken dinners that don’t involve dairy since the baby is not a fan (I miss cheese!). Here’s a one-dish meal I made last night that was reminiscent of paella, thanks to the saffron, but very easy. The key is to have good ingredients stocked!

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. brown rice
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • Pinch of saffron
  • ~3 c. vegetables, diced (zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, peas, carrots, corn, etc)
  • ~1 c. cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 T butter
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, saute onion, celery, and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add rice, broth, thyme, and saffron. Simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed.
  2. In a large skillet, saute vegetables in butter, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add chicken to warm.
  3. Add cooked rice to skillet with vegetables an mix. Season, and optionally, turn the heat up and don’t stir to create the socarrat, the crispy bottom. 

Officially guilt-free cookies

Being a woman of a certain age, I’ve been trying to make sure that I get plenty of the important vitamins and minerals I need, focusing on calcium, iron, and folate. And no pills. Instead of trying to reduce calories, or even fiber, fat, or carbs, I instead try get enough important nutrients. It’s a focus on nourishing yourself, not denying. And it’s a lot more fun.  For example, I am having lots of dessert lately because I find I need more calcium, and hot cocoa or milk with cookies is a great way to top off my daily requirements.  Also, I just get way too full during the day to bother with much white flour or candy or extra junk. Not that I don’t still eat plenty of that!

I declare these cookies officially guilt-free, even though there is still plenty of fat  and sugar in them. But, they are dairy free, gluten free (if you care), and so packed with good stuff  like tons of fiber and protein. Most importantly, they are an awesome source of folate! Two cookies will get you 20% of your daily requirement. Have those cookies with a glass of (whole) milk, and you’ve got 30% of your calcium covered for the day too. As a bonus, they have 5% of your daily iron!

All this from rich, chewy, peanut-buttery cookies. You’ll never want to eat a Luna bar again.

Guilt-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1-1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 c. creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. peanut flour (I got mine at Trader Joe’s. It’s fairly new.)
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 oz. raw cocoa nibs (optional, but you should totally get these. So amazingly healthy for you!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets.
  2. Mix sugar, molasses, and peanut butter. Add vanilla and eggs and mix.
  3. Add peanut flour, baking soda, and cocoa nibs and mix. Mixture will be very stiff.
  4. Make 1 tablespoon balls, or use an 18/8 ice cream scoop and put on cookie sheet. They won’t spread much, so they can be close together. Squish with the standard fork hashes for the traditional peanut butter cookie look.
  5. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. Cool on cookie racks. They will be soft on the inside, but firm up as they cool. Makes 32. Eat at least two for dessert with a big glass of milk!

Notes: You can use brown sugar if you don’t have molasses. I was just out, and found the white sugar/molasses to be better, cheaper, and healthier. You can add chopped peanuts too if you have them on hand. I just never do.

Lentil Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/8 c. brown lentils
  • 1 packet veggie broth concentrate
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 5 slices whole wheat bread
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T parsley
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 1 t Turkish seasoning
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 2 T ketchup
  • 1/2 c grated jack cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil lentils in a about 3 cups water with broth packet until tender. Drain and reserve 1 c. cooking liquid.
  2. Saute garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil.
  3. Mix vegetables, lentils, reserved liquid, and everything else except the cheese in a bowl.
  4. Spread in a loaf pan and cover with cheese.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.

It’s still in the oven, so we’ll see how it goes!

Cheap and yummy

Another school year has started, and I’m back cooking at Home Away. I’m looking forward to cooking old favorites and trying out new recipes this year.

I’m cooking for about 12-14 this year, which is a few more than I’m used to, but we’ve lost a some big eaters, and there are some picky freshman girls who I’m determined to convert. The budget is around $40-60 a meal, but I try to shoot for closer to $30, which I can do if there are good staples in the kitchen like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and butter. I try for $3/person for a healthy, mostly organic dinner, includes seconds and hopefully dessert.

A few ways I save money while cooking mostly organic food:

  • Vegetarian! Much cheaper than meat dishes.
  • Unprocessed: I always chop all of the veggies, and grate my own cheese. It’s really not that hard.
  • Trader Joe’s. Lots of cheap organic options, as long as you avoid the processed food, which are expensive.
  • Dry beans instead of canned. It takes a few days of prep, but it is cheaper and avoids a source of BPA.
  • Farmer’s market. We’re so spoiled in California to have such delicious produce year-round.

My menu last week was vegetarian chili, white rice, fruit salad (grapes, cantaloupe, strawberries, and plums), and cornbread. It’s great because the chili is loaded with vegetables and beans, including mushrooms I sneak in, and almost no fat. So, even when they pile on the cheese and low-fat plain yogurt (leftover from the cornbread), it’s still not bad. I could have made brown rice, but I figured all the beans are providing plenty of fiber.

This week I’m going to make tuna noodle casserole, trying out whole wheat pasta for the first time. Along with that there will be a green salad with pomegranates and pecans, and another fruit salad, this time with figs, grapes, and strawberries. Total grocery bill from TJ’s including some staples like flour and the nuts I’ll use for months: $44. So we’re still around $3.00.

The kids are really into trying new foods and love exotic and spicy foods. However, they are teenagers, and while they are much more adventurous than I ever was at their age, they aren’t exactly going to be diving into a bowl of steamed broccoli. Some pick out veggies and (such a waste!) pine nuts. While I don’t exactly try to hide vegetables, except for mushrooms, which they don’t realize contribute so much to vegetarian dishes, I don’t make it too easy to eat around them either.

Salads are almost always on the menu. Fruit salad is something I’m going to try to do more of this year. Green salads are standard issue and most of the kids will eat some. Some really like the standard mixed green salad with balsamic dressing. Instead of veggie toppings, I tend to use nuts, feta, dried cranberries (hugely popular), and the like. I usually make my own dressings, but I do get the spicy peanut dressing from TJ’s to toss with romaine. Greek salad is always a hit, and I’ve tried coleslaw and carrot salad with less success. But I am always putting new vegetable dishes out there because you never know what they’ll like.

Protein: I use lots of beans, lentils, quinoa, and split peas for protein. I was worried at first that the kids wouldn’t like them and I’d have to hide them, but it’s never been an issue. I try to do fish every few weeks: frozen mahi mahi from TJs or canned tuna. I’ve occasionally done other white fish, but cooking fish for a group can be a challenge and expensive. In the winter a special dinner is fresh crab, which you can still do in the $60 range for 14 people. I never do pork or beef, and I sometimes do chicken: either a whole organic TJ chicken that I make a broth with and then shred the meat for the dish, or two packages of boneless skinless chicken thighs, which I also shred for the dish. I never serve chicken whole because it goes farther mixed with other stuff.

Fat: I don’t worry about it. I use whole milk, butter, and olive oil without reservation. It’s all about the whole food, and most of the time I don’t use a lot of dairy, so when I do, I use the real stuff. Whole milk tastes so much better. And olive oil is healthy, right?

Here are some dishes I’ll be making again this year:

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

In preparation for the first ski weekend of the year. I’ve made the batter and it’s in the fridge. Thursday night, I’ll bake them up! (Oh, and I’ve sneaked some flax into them too!)

Mix:

  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 6 T. brown sugar
  • 6 T. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla

Mix together and add to wet:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 c. flaxmeal
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes on greased cookie sheet.

Chocolate Chip Flax Muffins

Based off of Flax & Oat Power Muffins. Hopefully it is a healthy version of an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie!

Ingredients

  • 1 mashed banana (thawed frozen one works fine)
  • 2 T olive oil (original said 2 tsp. oops!)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 c ground flax (or 1/2 c flax seed, ground)
  • 6 T whole wheat flour (heavier flour, use 1/4 c.)
  • 1/2 oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda  (should try 1 tsp baking powder next time)
  • 1/3 c chocolate chips
  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Mix wet ingedients.
  3. Add dry to wet, mix.
  4. Fill 6 greased muffin tins.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.