Two Healthy Breakfasts for Late Summer

Tomato season is in full swing and apple season has begun here in Pennsylvania, so I’m alternating between these two delicious breakfasts!  Both are quick to prepare, with minimal dirty dishes.  They make good snacks, too.  You get plenty of vitamins and fiber from the fruit, plus protein and fat to keep you feeling full.

We planted two tomato plants in our front yard this year and had another tomato plant come up by surprise, and they’re all producing well.  We also get both tomatoes and apples from our CSA organic farm share.

Tomato Toast is simply buttered toast with nutritional yeast flakes, a nice thick layer of sliced tomato, salt, and dill.  (Cilantro instead of dill makes a different flavor, also tasty.)  If you’re really hungry, add a scrambled or fried egg.  An affordable gluten-free variation is a bowl of warmed-up leftover cooked rice or other grain, with butter, nutritional yeast flakes, diced tomato, salt, and dill.

Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt is simply a diced apple quickly cooked with seasonings and stirred into plain yogurt.  Sometimes I add granola or other cereal.  This morning, I made this with a pear instead (because we were given a bag of home-grown pears) and that’s good, too.  This recipe is ideal for people who get an itchy mouth or upset stomach from eating raw apples–a problem I had only while pregnant with Lydia, which is when I developed this recipe.

Enjoy the season, and check out all the great ideas at Real Food Friday and the Hearth & Soul Hop and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday!

All-Natural Vegetarian Non-Refrigerated Convenience Foods

This is not a sponsored post.  This is a recommendation of products I tried and liked.

Daniel and I try to make enough real, from-scratch, healthy food that I (working in an office) can take leftovers for my lunch every day and he (working at home) can get something ready to eat within a few minutes rather than spend time cooking at lunchtime.  It works out better at some times than others.  In the past year, with the additional distractions of getting our baby daughter ready to go each day, I’ve had more days when I didn’t have time to pack a lunch, couldn’t spare the attention to figure out what leftovers were available, or wasn’t able to carry a lunch because I was bringing something to work (like dish detergent) and there’s a limit to what I can carry along with Lydia and all her gear as we commute by bus!  I was grabbing Trader Joe’s meals from our freezer sometimes and eating in restaurants much more often than normal.  I like restaurants, but at $6-$9 per lunch, that gets expensive!

One day I was buying some milk for my coffee and mixed nuts for snacking at the CVS store half a block from work when I noticed a sale on foods in pouches and noticed that many of these were vegetarian foods.  I took a closer look and saw surprisingly unobjectionable ingredients.
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Baked Tofu at The Purple Tulip

P1010891This recipe has been in development for more than three years.  Our son Nicholas first suggested it as part of a dish he wanted to serve in his pretend restaurant, The Purple Tulip.  It turned out very well that first time, but we had to make it several more times to be certain of the correct measurements and cooking technique . . . and we don’t eat tofu all that often, once or twice a month . . . and when we do eat tofu, there are several other recipes we like, especially Tangy Honey-Apricot Tofu . . . so it’s taken us a while to get in enough testing sessions to be confident of this recipe.

Baked Tofu is a protein you can serve in a rice bowl, in a wrap, on a salad, as a “meat” with side dishes, or whatever you like.  You can even eat cold or room-temperature leftovers in your packed lunch.  It has a firm, chewy texture and gets crisp at the edges.  The flavor of the sauce soaks in, making this a tasty, hearty food. At The Purple Tulip, we’ve served Baked Tofu in these two ways:

  • with thinly sliced apple and red pepper, wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla.  May also include lettuce and/or a thinly spread layer of beans sauteed with onions and mashed.
  • over rice, with kale and mushrooms sauteed in sesame oil, salt, and a little white pepper.  This is the version shown above, elegantly plated for me by Nicholas.  He prefers to eat his tofu separately from the vegetables, but he actually does eat those vegetables in decent quantity when they are prepared this way and served with Baked Tofu.

To make 6 servings, you will need: Read more…

Two Affordable GMO-Free Cereals

I don’t trust genetically modified food to be safe for our health or environment.  About five years ago, I realized that several of our favorite breakfast cereals contained corn, and I’d been reading that most corn grown in the United States that isn’t organically grown is now GMO.  We gave up buying those cereals routinely…but it was hard to resist the best sales!  We love eating cereal, and the mainstream brands are inexpensive, especially on sale, whereas the organic brands are priced so much higher that we’re rarely willing to pay for them (except for this delicious, low-sugar granola from Costco).  We wound up getting most of our cereals from Trader Joe’s, where all house-brand products are GMO-free and the prices aren’t too bad.

Did you know that Cheerios contain corn?  You probably think that’s an oat cereal.  But if you compare Cheerios to most of the store-brand imitators, the flavor is a bit different: The generic ones taste more plain, while Cheerios have a particular roasty-toastiness.  The difference in ingredients is that Cheerios contain a small amount of corn.  Therefore, no more Cheerios for my family.

We were still buying Post Grape Nuts, though.  No corn in those!  But one day I noticed that the box said, “Now with more protein!” and read the ingredients for the first time in years: They now contained soy protein.  Most non-organic soybeans grown in the United States are now GMO, too.  Sigh.  No more Grape Nuts.

Then, one wonderful day last year, I noticed a sign above the enormous pile of yellow boxes that were on special at Costco: GMO-free Cheerios.  Really?!  I examined the box excitedly but saw nothing there about GMOs one way or another.  Warily, I bought one of the big double packs at the bargain price, and when I got home I searched for information online.  I learned that General Mills decided to put in a little effort to use non-GMO corn and sugar in original flavor Cheerios because the recipe is so simple (compared to flavored Cheerios) that this was easy to do.  Hooray!

Not long afterward, I was craving Grape Nuts, saw them on sale, and noticed the Non-GMO Project logo on the box!  Right next to it was a circle saying Soy Free, and sure enough, isolated soy protein is no longer in the ingredient list.  Post took the soy out of Grape Nuts to make them GMO-free to appeal to certain target markets–like me!

I’m so glad that my family can have convenient snacks of affordable Cheerios and Grape Nuts again!  Our nine-month-old daughter can practice her pincer grip on crunchy little circles without being exposed to weird untested ingredients, and when she accidentally scatters some of them on the floor I don’t freak out about wasting expensive food.  (I do eat Cheerios that have been on the floor, sometimes….)

I know that some of the most serious healthy eaters these days won’t eat any ready-made packaged cereals or won’t eat any grain foods at all.  I’ve heard the arguments against them–but I feel that my family is thriving on grains as a part of our diet, and some of the simpler and less sweetened cereals are some of the grain foods we eat.  It’s great that some of the major brands are responding to consumer pressure to sell foods free of GMOs.

These two nutritious cereals that I’ve been enjoying since childhood work for me now that they are GMO-free!  Visit Real Food Friday for more articles on healthy eating!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Hop for more great food ideas!

Flexican Cornbread Pizza

Meatless MondayTasty TuesdayHearth & Soul Blog HopWorks-for-Me Wednesday

This recipe has a history.  It started with my mom’s trusty recipe for Mexican Pizza.  Then came my serendipitous discoveries that (a) it can be adapted to a non-Mexican-flavored version, which my family loves just as much as the Mexican version, and (b) it can be baked in a toaster-oven.  More than a year ago, I opened a contest to name this recipe…but none of the suggestions really grabbed me.  Meanwhile, my life-partner Daniel has referred to it at least once as Flexican Cornbread Pizza, which I think is a pretty good name, and he’s been kind of depressed lately, but he really enjoyed this meal when I made it last night, so…

THE WINNER IS DAN EFRAN, CREATOR OF COOL STUFF TO BRIGHTEN YOUR DAY!!!  YAAAYYY!!!

Absolutely no nepotism was involved.  It’s really more about my fondness for words that combine two other words.  This recipe is flexible and can be Mexican in flavor, and it’s like a pizza with a cornbread crust, so Flexican Cornbread Pizza is a perfect name.  Unless we come up with something even punnier.

This recipe can be adapted to the vegetables and herbs you happen to have on hand.  You could even use leftovers!  That makes it very frugal.  Here is the Mexican version, and here is an Italian version I made on a hot summer day, and below is the recipe with general guidelines plus specifics on last night’s cozy January dinner.  It’s vegetarian and can be made vegan.  From start to finish, you can make it in 30 minutes or less, even if your onions or other vegetables are frozen shredded–they’ll thaw easily in the first stage of cooking.

These instructions are for baking in a standard oven, on a cookie sheet with sides.  See the above Italian version to adjust quantities to make a 9″ square pan to bake in the toaster-oven.

To make 6 main-dish servings, you will need:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked and rinsed beans. I used pinto beans last night; I rinsed 2 cans, set aside 1/4 cup for the baby’s dinner (she also had black olives and Cheerios), and used the rest on the pizza.
  • 1/4 to 1/2 onion, or 1 or 2 green onions.  I used the last bits left over from a sweet white onion we’d cut up for other meals.
  • vegetables.  I used 4 big leaves of kale, 8 large white button mushrooms, and a big handful of black olives.
  • herbs, fresh or dried.  I used 1 stalk dried rosemary and 2 stalks dried thyme.  (Did you know?  Most fresh herbs will turn into dried herbs if you just put them in an open-topped plastic bag in the refrigerator and forget about them.  It doesn’t work with basil or parsley because they’re too wet and will get moldy.)
  • other seasonings to taste.  I used about 1/4 tsp. each of sea salt and white pepper.
  • Optional: 1 cup marinara sauce.  We didn’t use any this time.  Another option is to leave it off the pizza but serve it on the side.
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil.
  • Grease for the baking pan. I used coconut oil.
  • 1 cup cornmeal.
  • 1 tsp. salt.
  • 1 cup flour.  I used whole-wheat flour.
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder.
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, applesauce, or pumpkin puree. I used yogurt. (If applesauce is sweetened, omit syrup/honey.)
  • 1 Tbsp. sorghum syrup or honey.
  • Optional: 1 egg.  The crust holds together better if you use egg than if you don’t.
  • Optional: 1 cup grated cheese.  I used mozzarella.

Dice onion, any fresh herbs, and vegetables.  Saute them in 1 Tbsp. olive oil, in a skillet, for a few minutes, crumbling in any dried herbs and adding other seasonings.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F.  Grease the cookie sheet, bottom and sides, from one end to about 3 inches from the other end.  (If you want your crust really thin, you can grease the whole pan.  I prefer to make it thicker.)

Mix cornmeal, salt, flour, and baking powder in a bowl.  Make a well in the center and put yogurt, syrup, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and egg in it.  Mix them together and then mix with the dry ingredients; don’t mix too long or hard, just until combined.  (Over-mixing will pop the bubbles created by the baking powder, resulting in less fluffy cornbread.)

Pour the batter into the pan–start at one end and spread batter toward the other end, using a rubber scraper, until you begin having trouble getting it to stay together–it should be about 1/2 inch deep.

If using sauce, spread it over the batter.  Sprinkle vegetable mixture and beans evenly over the batter.  Sprinkle optional cheese evenly on top.

Bake 10 minutes.  Check to see if you can lift the edge of the crust easily with a spatula.  If not, keep baking and checking every few minutes until it’s done–typically 15-20 minutes.

Cut into rectangles and serve with salad or fruit for a nice meal.  Leftover pieces easily reheat in the microwave or toaster-oven.

DIY Instant Oatmeal: Ditch the Packets!

I love oatmeal.  It’s nutritious, with plenty of fiber and minerals and Vitamin B1, and has many health benefits.  It’s filling.  It can be seasoned any way you like.  Quick-cooking oats are really easy to make–I don’t even bother cooking them in a pot, just mix them with boiling water in a bowl–and very low-priced, especially in bulk at the food co-op or in a large canister at GFS Marketplace.  I have a favorite recipe for oatmeal that includes other healthy and filling ingredients like almond butter, and I also make fruit-flavored oatmeal whenever we finish up a jar of jam.

But in my workplace, I can’t store a lot of ingredients, nor do I have a nice counter space to assemble food.  I don’t want to be licking sorghum syrup and almond butter off my filing cabinet!  I do have a very nice electric kettle which provides properly boiling water (much better than a microwave) suitable for cooking oatmeal….

At times, I’ve bought instant oatmeal in single-serving packets.  They’re okay.  Some of the flavors are quite tasty, and a snack of oatmeal is very satisfying.  But seeing those plastic-lined packets piling up in my wastebasket makes me feel a little sick.  And a packet costs about 5 times as much as a serving of quick oats with embellishments.  The giant boxes of packets, with a lower price per serving and slightly less cardboard waste, inevitably are “variety packs” including at least one flavor that I don’t like as well as the others.  The less-expensive brands of flavored oatmeal usually include weird ingredients that might not be so healthy, plus a lot of sugar.  Some flavors contain dried fruit, but after being stored mixed into the oatmeal it is so dry that it isn’t very appetizing.

Now that I’m a nursing mother again, I’m especially in need of healthy snacks, and oatmeal may increase milk production–it does seem to have that effect on me.  A few months ago, Costco had a sale on Nature’s Path organic instant oatmeal with no weird ingredients…and I plowed through those 32 packets in less than 6 weeks.  Furthermore, I felt that a packet wasn’t really quite enough food for me now, so I sometimes ate two packets together.  I had to find a less wasteful option! Read more…

Knock Out a Cold Quickly and Naturally!

Last Wednesday, I felt like I was coming down with a cold: runny nose, itchy throat, ominous heavy feeling in the middle of my head.  The typical cold lasts 7-10 days.  Bummer.

Today is Tuesday.  I’m still having an episode of sneezing and nose-blowing every few hours, but otherwise I feel great!  I’ve been feeling pretty well since Sunday.  Even on Saturday, I got through a major grocery-shopping expedition without collapsing afterward.  So really, I was only sick for 2-3 days, and it didn’t turn into a lung or sinus infection like my colds often do.  It’s possible that this was just a weaker virus than some, but I think that my treatment of myself during this cold helped it to run its course more quickly than it might.  Here’s what I did:

Read more…

Green Ribbon Lentils

Almost two years ago, I saw this recipe for Garlicky Lentils and Tomatoes, which is very flexible.  We have tried it several different ways, and this variation has become a favorite.

This recipe is easy, cheap, and pretty quick!  It is vegan and gluten-free.  It has lots of fiber, vitamins, protein, and iron.  It can stand alone as a meal or be eaten with bread, over rice, or even on a bun like Sloppy Joe.

It’s a great way to use some of the tomatoes that are so abundant at this time of year–but it also tastes great made with canned tomatoes at any time of year.  It’s also yet another way to use kale, a vegetable that tends to be affordably priced year-round and freezes well.

Best of all, this recipe appeals to our nine-year-old son, and it gets a lot of healthy dark-green vegetable into him! Read more…

Bean Wraps with Smoked Gouda and Pineapple

Meatless MondayUPDATE: Eight months later, I’m sharing this recipe at Meatless Monday.  It’s a great quick meal at any time of year because all the ingredients are shelf-stable except for the cheese and wrapper; it doesn’t use fresh foods that are in season at a particular time of year–unless you live in pineapple country!

Don’t eat cheese?  Baked smoked tofu would be delicious in this, too.

Last Saturday, despite being extremely pregnant, I managed to attend and enjoy both a very nice birthday party at a nature reserve and the springtime celebration of the Edible Schoolyard at my son’s school–but then I was very tired.  On the way home from the school event, I asked nine-year-old Nicholas to help me think of something quick and easy we could make for dinner after I’d had some time to lie down.

He was eager to eat some of the smoked gouda cheese we had bought at Trader Joe’s on the way home from the birthday party.  (To my surprise, it cost only a little more than basic cheeses like cheddar at our supermarket.)  He also remembered that we’d bought tortillas….  “Let’s have a different flavor of bean burritos!”

I felt that cannellini beans (white kidney beans) would be the variety most likely to taste good with smoked gouda.  I thought some kind of fruit might be good with them, but we didn’t have apples or pears, hmmm…

Nicholas found a can of pineapple rings in the pantry and announced that he would grill them on the George Foreman grill.  This went well, although it was kind of smoky–we opened the window!  He used the drip tray to catch the juice that ran off, and used the sort of fingered spatula thing that comes with the grill to scrape off the blackened pineapple juice after each ring.  While he was doing that, I heated and seasoned the beans.

Our bean wraps were delicious!  Very savory, almost bacon-like flavor.  Here’s the recipe we invented!

To make 3 main-dish servings, you will need:

  • 2 cans or 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other mild-flavored beans)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • sea salt and white pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp. of each)
  • about 1/5 pound smoked gouda cheese
  • 3 large flour tortillas (Alternatively, I bet this would taste great wrapped in lettuce leaves, for a low-carb/gluten-free variant.)
  • 6 pineapple rings

Peel and slice the garlic.  Saute it in olive oil in a large skillet, not too hot.  Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans.  When garlic begins to brown, add beans, tarragon, salt, and pepper to skillet.  Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, dice the cheese, and grill the pineapple (or brown it in a smaller skillet or in the toaster-oven) if desired.

Sprinkle cheese over surface of beans.  Cover pan and turn off heat.  Warm the tortillas (or wash the lettuce).  Cut each pineapple ring in half.

Divide bean mixture evenly among wraps.  Arrange 4 half-rings of pineapple atop the beans in each wrap.  Wrap them up.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more great recipes! Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for lots of useful tips!

Lemon Creamy Salmon with Tangy Greens

This is a meal my family has enjoyed repeatedly since it was inspired by a chicken recipe more than two years ago.  We rarely eat chicken and never cook it at home, so we’ve always made this with canned wild Alaskan salmon.  I’ve now made enough changes to the original recipe that I feel this qualifies as a different recipe. You can make this meal for $5 or less if you stock up on canned salmon when it goes on sale, and you choose wisely on the greens and carbohydrate–the recipe is very flexible about those specifics. There are five components to this meal, which picky people may prefer to eat separately: salmon in sauce, greens, dressing, dried cranberries, and a carbohydrate.  The way I serve this meal for myself is to put the salmon on top of the carbohydrate, and the dressing and cranberries on top of the greens. To make 4 servings, you will need:

  • 15 oz. canned or pre-cooked salmon
  • 1 small or 1/2 large onion
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 4 servings prepared carbohydrate: pasta, rice, baked or mashed potato, toasted hearty bread, etc.
  • 4 cups fresh, or 2 cups shredded frozen, dark green leaves: kale, spinach, Swiss chard, etc.
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (separately from above oil)
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

The first step is to consider what kind of carb and what kind of greens you are using.  If the carb is not yet cooked, start cooking it first.  If you’ll be serving toast, wait until last to toast it so it will be warm.  If you want to eat the greens raw, all you have to do is rinse them and tear larger leaves into bite-size pieces.  If the greens are frozen, or they’re fresh but you want to serve them cooked, start cooking them–I often use frozen kale, just put it in a covered pot with a small amount of water, and poke it with a spoon every few minutes until all the chunks are broken up and it is a slightly less bright green.

Drain the salmon and remove unwanted bones.

Dice the onion.  Cook it in 2 Tbsp. oil until it begins to brown.

Stir in broth and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and stir in yogurt, thyme, and lemon juice.  (If you used leftover cooked salmon that was not salted, instead of canned salmon, you may want to add some salt.)  Stir for about 2 minutes.

Add the salmon.  Break it up into small chunks.  Heat for another few minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, make the dressing, either by shaking in a small glass jar or by whisking in a small bowl: Crush the garlic and mix it with 1/3 cup oil and the vinegar and salt.

Serve the salmon, carb, greens, dressing, and cranberries together or separately, as desired.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop and Real Food Friday for more recipes!  Visit Fabulously Frugal Thursday and Thrifty Thursday for more affordable ideas!

My Top 3 Kitchen Time-Saving Tips

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship is asking everyone to share our top 3 kitchen time-savers this week!  I work full-time outside the home, and although my partner Daniel has been doing more than half the cooking in the past few years, I do most of the planning, shopping, and preliminary preparations.  He works from home and tries to continue getting work done after our nine-year-old comes home from school, so it’s important to him to be able to spend less than an hour making dinner.  Here are our top tips:

Prepare ingredients for multiple meals at once.

When you’re going to the trouble of cutting up some food, using cutting tools that will have to be cleaned, you may as well cut a whole lot of it!  While you’re at it, measure the portions you’ll need for several recipes, and wash the measuring cup just once.  If you preserve some of the food (we freeze any we don’t plan to use within a week), you can stock up when it’s on sale and use it over a long period of time, instead of buying smaller amounts at higher prices.  Here are some specifics: Read more…

Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt

I’m finally beginning to feel a lot better and get back into being able to think about food! I’ve actually cooked several meals from scratch, without collapsing, in the last couple of weeks.

One of the oddities of this pregnancy is that I’m sometimes having a hard time with raw apples: Either they give me an acid stomach ache, or they make the back of my tongue sting.  However, our farm share gave us a lot of apples, and local organic apples are among the lowest-priced fruit in stores at this season, so we’ve consistently had apples sitting around the kitchen.  One evening I got inspired to make myself a delicious snack, with protein and calcium and fat to help me stay full overnight, that enables me to eat an apple without problems–and it’s ready before I can get excessively hungry!

To make one serving, you will need:

  • 1 large apple, or 2 small apples
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sorghum syrup, honey, or maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt

Remove the apple core and any weird rough sections of peel.  Dice apple into bite-size or smaller chunks.  Place in a microwave-safe, large cereal bowl.  (If you don’t want to use a microwave, you can cook the apple in a small pot on the stove and then put it into your bowl.)

Add all other ingredients except yogurt.

Cover the bowl with a plate or other suitable cover.  Microwave on full power for 1 minute.  Stir thoroughly.  Make sure apples are soft; if not, cook it a bit longer.

Add yogurt.  Mix it in.

Enjoy!

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more autumnal recipes!

Fast, Frugal, Fruit-Flavored Oatmeal (or, how to use up the jam stuck to the jar)

When a jar of jam is depleted to the point that it’s difficult to gather up enough jam for a sandwich or a slice of toast, it’s tempting to just chuck it.  If you’re going to recycle or reuse that jar, though, you need to remove every bit of jam…and if you’re removing it, you may as well eat it, especially if this is not really “jam” but expensive organic juice-sweetened fruit spread…so maybe you stick that jar back in the refrigerator and open a new one to use in your sandwich.  Pretty soon there are a lot of almost-empty jam jars taunting you about how you never get around to scraping them.

Years ago I read in The Tightwad Gazette that the solution to this problem was to fill the jar halfway with milk and shake it, creating tasty strawberry milk (or grape milk or boysenberry milk or whatever).  It sounds good, but I found that cold milk doesn’t dissolve much jam; you still have to scrape the jar, and even then the jam tends to settle to the bottom, so you’re drinking mildly strawberry-flavored milk and then having a lot of cold clots of jam slide into your mouth.  Not so great.

I have now found a solution to the jam-jar problem!

  • Boil some water in your electric kettle or other boiling device.
  • Put some quick-cooking oatmeal in a bowl.  I don’t like to measure stuff before breakfast, but I use about 1/2 cup.
  • Pour boiling water into the jar until it is half full.  Don’t fill it more because you need to leave room for steam.  Hold the jar with an oven mitt.  Put on the lid and shake until all jam is loosened.  Alternatively, leave the lid off and stir the water with a spoon or butter knife until all the jam comes off.
  • Using oven mitt, pour jam-water from jar over oatmeal.  Stir.  If oatmeal is not wet enough, add more water.
  • Optional: Add some dried fruit, some milk, or some fat (butter, flax seed oil, coconut oil) to the oatmeal.

Making tasty fruit-flavored oatmeal and getting the jar clean without wasting water works for me!  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Fabulously Frugal Thursday for other waste-reducing tips!

Emergency Creamy Tomato Soup (healthier!)

Okay, it wasn’t really an emergency.  It was just that our eight-year-old Nicholas really wanted creamy tomato soup for dinner when both parents were recovering–more weakly than we’d hoped–from a stomach virus that the kid had several days earlier.  Daniel and I both were very sick Monday, a little better Tuesday, and then I went back to work yesterday but regretted it by mid-afternoon.  On the way home, I was dizzy and gurgling ominously in the lower abdomen, so instead of stopping to buy the chicken soup Daniel had requested, I went straight home, thinking I would go to the store later.  Nicholas was excited to go to the store and had decided he wanted tomato soup.  We even had a coupon for new Campbell’s 100% Natural (the existence of which makes me want to stop buying their other soups, because you see what they’re saying there?).

But I never got better enough to leave the house.  An hour past our usual dinnertime, I was still lying around moaning and had just added heartburn to my list of woes.  I didn’t even feel capable of heating up and stirring canned soup if we’d had some available.

Daniel to the rescue!  His first step was looking at a recipe for creamy tomato soup in the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, which he describes as, “where I look when I want something classic and American.”  The recipe called for a large can of diced tomato.  What we had was homemade marinara sauce.  Since Nicholas is a fan of the creamy tomato soup at Panera Bread, which is Italian-flavored, we figured this would work.  Daniel cut the recipe in half and used it as a guideline for how to combine milk and tomatoes without curdling.  The result was this recipe: Read more…

Japanese Udon Noodle Soup

Happy New Year!!  Somebody told me long ago that in some cultures it’s traditional to eat “long noodles for long life” at the turn of the year.  We all like noodles in our family, so we have taken up this tradition.  This year and last I made Japanese Udon Noodle Soup for dinner on New Year’s Eve.  It contains two main ingredients that might be unfamiliar to non-Japanese people, but it’s quick and easy and tasty!  My mom taught me to make it.  (We’re not Japanese, but we spent a few months in Japan when I was a toddler and my dad was working there, and my parents have visited Japan several times since.)

These ingredients should be available from any Asian grocery store, and many supermarkets carry them these days:

  • Udon noodles are like thick linguini.  They’re made from wheat flour and have a very plain yet pleasant flavor.
  • Bonito broth mix is like bouillon; you buy a little jar of strongly flavored particles that dissolve in water to make a broth.  Bonito is a kind of fish.

This recipe is very flexible.  You can use up leftovers in it or use the vegetables you happen to have in the house.  The protein can be tofu, egg, or fish (already cooked, not breaded or strongly seasoned).  You can add any Japanese-style garnishes you happen to have, such as seaweed sprinkles or pickled radish or mung bean sprouts. Read more…

Pumpkin Burritos

It may seem somewhat obvious that, if you can make Butternut Squash Burritos from the same recipe as Sweet Potato Burritos, you could also make Pumpkin Burritos.  But if you’re among the many people desperately searching the Internet this month for new and different ways to serve the remains of your jack o’lantern, it might not occur to you to search for squash or sweet potato recipes as well, or you might be nervous about modifying those recipes to use pumpkin.

Daniel made Pumpkin Burritos for us last night, so we can assure you that this recipe works!  To convert our pumpkin into pumpkin puree, we used these instructions as a guide, but we were not starting with a small pie pumpkin like they recommend; our son had begged for a big pumpkin to decorate our porch this Halloween, and I bought one that must have weighed 25 pounds before we scooped it out.  After being carved and displayed for two weeks, it was a bit moldy on the inside, but I couldn’t help seeing it as $7 worth of food–and I suspected it would make a lot more pumpkin puree than the 3 cans we could buy for $7.50.  I sliced the pumpkin into wedges with a cleaver, then used a paring knife to cut off all surfaces that had been exposed to the air; there were only a few spots where I had to dig deeper to remove yuckiness.  Daniel baked it in the oven as directed–microwaving would have been more complicated because we had so much pumpkin it would have had to be in 3 or 4 batches in the microwave.  We got about 11 cups of finished puree, and it tastes fine, at least as good as the canned stuff.

For each burrito, you will need: Read more…

Summer Vegetable Sunflower Blop

Sometimes I have trouble thinking of a good name for a recipe, especially when it’s something I have been making for myself without talking to anybody about it, because in my mind it can be called “kind of like what I made the other day” or “mmmmm” or “RY3A0128” or whatever.  The name for today’s recipe comes courtesy of the Hearth and Soul Blop Hop, a recipe linkup that may just have a typo in the name this week, but I am feeling inspired by the idea of a Blop Hop, which sounds so much more lively and charming and Dr. Seussian than anything involving a blog, a word which still really sounds to me like it refers to something slimy and smelly that washes up on the beach.  You wouldn’t want to eat that, but try my delicious Blop! Read more…

7 Delicious Meatless Recipes from Other Sites

Food on Fridays7 Quick Takes FridayHearth & Soul Hop

We enjoy plenty of our own recipes, but I also have fun browsing recipes online and copying down recipes we might like.  Here are 7 that have earned pages in our recipe binder.  If you are vegetarian or vegan or have given up meat for Lent or are observing Meatless Mondays or meatless Lenten Fridays, you’ll appreciate that none of these recipes contains red meat or poultry, only one contains fish, and the last 4 contain no animal foods at all.

1. Lemon Creamy Salmon with Macaroni and a Salad from Crest Cottage Creations

This actually is a recipe for chicken, but we made it with salmon (and vegetable broth instead of chicken broth), and it was fabulous!!  Just open a can of salmon, take out the bones if you prefer, and use it in place of the chicken.  We also used whole-milk yogurt in place of the cream, and the sauce was delicious.  This is a recipe for a full meal: fish in creamy sauce, pasta, and greens with dressing and dried cranberries.  We used kale as our greens–lightly cooked in the oil and vinegar.  My seven-year-old assistant chef appreciated having all his meal components in separate dishes (he even ate the dried cranberries separately) while his parents mixed everything together.

2. Cheesy Walnut Burgers from Taste of Home

This is the recipe my brother found when trying to replicate a burger he’d enjoyed in a restaurant.  These are pretty high in fat but no worse than a hamburger, and boy are they scrumptious!  They are easy to make, freeze well, and after defrosting (or refrigeration) can be reheated on a George Foreman grill.  This recipe works fine with pecans instead of walnuts, if that’s what you have.

3. Creamed Kale with Caramelized Onion from Budget Saving Mom

This is intended as a side dish, but in my enthusiastic opinion, you can stuff a baked potato with it and call it a meal!  The nutmeg really makes it perfect.

4. Brown Rice Salad from My Sweet and Savory

This recipe is ideal for summer picnics or potluck dinners, but it’s also good at any time of year as a side dish or snack that you can make in advance, stash in the refrigerator for a week or so, and eat cold.  The flavor improves as it soaks.  The combination of ingredients may sound odd, but it’s really good.  I’m not a big fan of brown rice, even though I know it’s healthier than white rice, so I was thrilled to find this recipe just after I had bought brown rice on sale.

5. One-bowl Pumpkin Bread/Muffins from Kitchen Stewardship

This is easier than most pumpkin bread recipes yet is the best of any of the several recipes we’ve tried!  Katie’s post includes a “healthy remake” version (that’s the one we use, substituting sorghum syrup for molasses) and helpful suggestions for using up excess pumpkin–although my solution to that problem is just to double the recipe!

6. Garlic Kale Sweet Potato Soup from 365 Days of Kale

This soup is packed with nutritional super-foods and is hearty enough to make a meal all by itself!  (Why, yes, we do eat a lot of kale in our family.  It’s nutritious, it’s cheap, and we’re not worried about it being “goitrogenic.”)  Between the sweet potatoes and the beans, this tasty soup is starchy enough that even I feel full without eating bread or crackers.  We’ve made it several times and think it’s even better with slightly more sweet potato than suggested.  It also works with pinto beans when cannellini beans are too expensive.  It has a rich, tasty, Italian flavor.  Don’t worry about the huge quantity of garlic; it mellows with cooking.

7. Vegan Ginger Cookies from Food.com

These are the cookies we baked last fall when one of our son’s friends celebrated his birthday with a cookie competition: Each guest brought a batch of homemade cookies, we all watched as the birthday boy sampled each one and conveyed his impressions, the guests snacked on the remaining cookies while the birthday boy and his parents prepared the award certificates, and then the certificates were presented with much pomp.  Our cookies won Most Crunchy, a high compliment in this boy’s opinion.  He is vegan and allergic to corn, which ruled out several of our favorite cookie recipes, so we were thrilled when this one worked so well.  Now it has joined our favorite cookie recipes!

Butternut Squash Burritos

UPDATE: I’m linking this to Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, which is hosted at a gluten-free site.  You could make this recipe gluten-free by using any type of gluten-free tortilla or wrap, by putting the filling over rice or quinoa in a bowl, or by being super-nutritious and wrapping the filling in big leaves of chard or kale!

We have been getting a lot of butternut squash from our CSA farm this winter, and although we love butternut squash, we were getting a bit tired of eating baked squash with Honey Baked Lentils.  We had baked all of our squashes at once and had a lot left over . . . so Daniel tried making our Sweet Potato Burritos recipe with squash, and it was pretty good!

Rather than writing a recipe for a particular size batch, we’ll tell you approximately how much to use for each burrito so you can work with the amount of squash you happen to have! Read more…

Instant hummus and falafels!

Meatless MondayMy mostly-vegetarian family likes to eat hummus (garbanzo bean and sesame seed dip) and falafels (garbanzo bean and pea fritters) but both of these foods take a while to make from scratch.  Practically every grocery store sells ready-to-serve hummus these days, but it is pricey and gets moldy quickly.  A few stores and restaurants sell pre-made falafels to heat up at home, but they’re expensive and not all that good.

Luckily, Fantastic Foods makes dry mixes for making both hummus and falafels.  I can’t call the falafels instant because you still have to cook them, but there is a quick and easy way to do that, too.  Neither the convenience nor the cooking method makes either food less healthy than if made from scratch!  Read more…