Posts filed under ‘Quick Meals & Snacks’
I’ll be the first to admit that I can sometimes go overboard with the healthy substitutions when I bake. It’s gotten to the point where, when I say, “I made chocolate chip cookies!”, my husband suspiciously replies with “what’s in them…or not in them?” And while chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour and one-third of the sugar that the recipe calls for are, admittedly, an acquired taste for some, something like banana bread actually lends itself really well to modifications that pump up the nutritional quotient. In fact, if you use sweet, overripe bananas, you can actually omit the sugar from the recipe completely and still end up with a tasty breakfast or healthy dessert. And if you throw in an extra banana or two, you can cut down significantly on the butter (you can also use coconut oil). Here’s how I do it:
4 TBSP (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or coconut oil at room temperature
2 large eggs
4 overripe bananas
2 TBSP milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional: 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1. Thoroughly grease the cups of a 12-muffin pan.
2. Mix together butter, eggs and milk until throughly blended. Mash up bananas and blend into mixture.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix throughly to combine. If using, stir chocolate chips into the batter.
4. Scoop batter into muffin cups and bake at 325 for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until muffin tops remain firm when lightly pressed.
Enjoy! These muffins are amazing right out of the oven. I store in the fridge to keep them fresh, and then cut one in half, toast lightly and spread with a little butter when I’m ready for a treat. Pure, wholesome goodness.
How do you make a virtuous, run-of-the-mill fruit and vegetable smoothie more exciting? Simply add spice. Extras like cinnamon, cardamon, ginger and nutmeg can turn your boring old daily smoothie into something reminiscent of a festive holiday punch. Below is my recipe for a green berry smoothie with a spicy twist. Of course, the beauty of smoothies is that your really don’t need a recipe – just throw in whatever sounds good. For example, I sometimes like to swap out the spinach for basil leaves, and omit the cinnamon and cardamom. It really just depends on which fresh ingredients I have on hand.
Spicy Spinach Berry Smoothie Ingredients:
1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
Five or six strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup of orange or cranberry juice
1/2 cup of water (to cut down on the sugar of using only juice)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
It’s a good thing butternut squash have a long shelf life because I really have to work up the energy to tackle one of those suckers. My pathetic knife skills combined with my lack of upper body strength make chopping them up a major chore. Fortunately, I came up with a recipe worth the effort.
As with many of my recipes, I sort of wing the measurements as I go along, so feel free to tweak to suit your taste. Note: You can easily make this vegan by subbing coconut oil for the butter.
1 large butternut squash
1/4 cup butter
1 TBSP maple syrup (brown sugar is also fine if you don’t have any syrup)
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oats
2 TBSP brown sugar
Dash of salt
1. Peel butternut squash and chop into approx. 1/2-inch cubes (discarding pulp and seeds).
2. Peel and chop pears into approx. 1/2-inch pieces.
3. Melt 2 TBSP of butter (saving the rest for the topping) in a 9″ x 12″ roasting dish and stir in the maple syrup and cinnamon.
4. Toss squash and pear cubes in butter and syrup to coat.
5. Melt 2 TBSP of butter in a bowl. Add flour, oats, brown sugar and dash of salt and stir until mixture is crumbly. (You may add another sprinkle of cinnamon here if you like.)
6. Distribute flour mixture evenly over the squash and pears. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and squash is fork-tender.
This recipe has less butter and sugar than most crumbles, so you can actually feel pretty good about eating your fruits and veggies. It makes a nice not-to-sweet dessert and a lovely breakfast. Hell, I even ate it for dinner tonight. Enjoy!
It used to be easy to get my kids to eat quinoa – all it took was a little soy sauce. But that got old after awhile…for all of us, so I sought out creative recipes online for pan-fried quinoa patties. The following is a hybrid of various veggie patty recipes I found that makes use of two of my favorite healthy staples: quinoa and sweet potatoes. They’re delicious on their own at any time of day (reheat leftovers in a pan with a little oil for a richly satisfying breakfast). I like them best spread with a thin layer of Dijon mustard and topped with sliced avocado. Pop the whole shebang into a bun and you’ve got an excellent vegetarian burger alternative for your summer barbecues.
3 large sweet potatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
2 tsp dried (or 1 TBSP fresh) thyme
2 cloves chopped garlic
Salt to taste
2 to 3 TBSP olive oil for frying
1. Bake sweet potatoes at 375 degrees until soft (about 45 minutes). Scoop the insides into a bowl and discard the skins.
2. While potatoes are baking, place quinoa with two cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook until all of the water is absorbed (10 to 15 minutes).
3. In a large bowl, mix together the cooked sweet potatoes and quinoa (slightly cooled), and add all remaining ingredients except cooking oil. Mix thoroughly by hand.
4. Heat oil to medium-high in a frying pan. Form the fritter mixture into patties by hand: 2 to 3 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick.
5. Cook fritters in batches, flipping halfway through, until lightly browned on each side, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
6. Drain on a paper towel and cool slightly before serving with your favorite toppings.
My dear friend Paige introduced me to raw pistachio pesto at the sustainable potluck I hosted a couple of months ago. She’s a busy gal and didn’t have time to prepare anything, so she picked it up along with a fresh baguette at Whole Foods…thereby introducing me to what turned out to be my favorite any-time-of-day meal ever. The problem is my favorite Whole Foods doesn’t carry it; I have to go to one of the busiest stores in Los Angeles with the nightmare parking lot to find it in the olive bar. (Talk about a “first world problem” – damn, do I sound obnoxious or what?) This inspired me to make it myself, tweaking the ingredients along the way (e.g. adding arugula for a nutritional boost). Here’s the recipe I came up with:
1/2 cup raw shelled pistachios
2 cups loosely packed arugula
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Juice of one 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until desired consistency is reached, adding more olive oil if needed. Note: You may need to process in batches if using a mini prep or blender.
I love potlucks. Who doesn’t, right? Perusing the variety of dishes on hand, determining what to have for my first and second (and sometimes third) course, and invariably overeating are all part of the tradition for me. I enjoy finding out how each dish was prepared – and provided I’m on my game that day – showcasing one of my favorite recipes.
The problem with potlucks is that they sometimes fall victim to conventional expectations. Green salad and mac and cheese are almost de rigueur and, while there’s nothing wrong with these dishes, they don’t necessarily take advantage of the best the season has to offer. Always eager for a green challenge to foist upon my friends, I decided to host a little “sustainable” potluck. The rules were simple: Dishes should be made with local, in-season ingredients (pantry items like flour, olive oil, etc., excepted). Fortunately for all of us, mid-March affords a greater variety of produce in SoCal than elsewhere in the country, so I knew we’d have plenty to work with. I also requested that the food be brought in reusable containers. Other than taking on dessert and drinks myself, I didn’t assign main dishes, sides, appetizers, etc., figuring that we’d end up with an assortment of good stuff and the categories didn’t much matter.
I ended up with a smallish group of adults and kids, and the following menu: Black bean, corn, avocado and red pepper salad with lime dressing (amazing), purple cabbage and carrot salad with crumbled almonds (yum), fresh bread and cheese with raw pistachio pesto (scrumptious), and my own sweet potato pudding cake made with rum and coconut (a bit of a cheat, but technically a pantry item). We ate, drank, complimented each other’s culinary skills and shared recipes. Grown-ups and tykes alike chowed down and leftovers were scarce – a sure sign of success. And despite the lack of a traditional “main dish” (i.e. meat), everyone left with a full belly.
Following is my recipe for the sweet potato pudding cake. It’s a hybrid of a couple of recipes I found online, adapted to make use of the ingredients I had on hand and to cut down on the sugar. It doesn’t conform to my five-ingredient-or-less philosophy, but I think it’s worth making nonetheless.
Sweet Potato Pudding Cake
3 to 4 medium to large sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups).
1/2 cup coconut milK
1 TBSP corn syrup (light or dark)
1 to 2 TBSP rum (optional)
1 TBSP pure vanilla extract
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat flower
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Dash of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 TBSP brown sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 1 1/2 qt. baking dish.
2. Bake sweet potatoes at 375 degrees until soft (about 45 minutes). Scoop the insides into a bowl and discard the skins.
3. Add all additional ingredients to the bowl and beat thoroughly with a hand mixer.
4. Pour batter into prepared dish and top with coconut and brown sugar mixture.
5. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until just firm all the way through. This dish can be served warm, at room temp or cold, and as a side, dessert or breakfast.
So there you have my contribution to the sustainable potluck. If we’re lucky, I’ll be able to convince a couple of my guests to post their fab recipes in the comments below…
Fall is hands-down my favorite time of year. Even though I live in season-deprived SoCal, the air is undeniably crisper come October, especially after our first good rain of the season. The feeling I get when I sense that change in the air is simultaneously soothing and invigorating. And boy did I need it this year. Sleepless nights thanks to a wakeful one-year-old and criminally early-rising four-year-old have sapped my energy and enthusiasm for cooking lately, and I was in need of inspiration. It came in the form of acorn squash.
I chose to this particular winter squash because the skin is edible, and I try to get away with not peeling vegetables whenever possible. I found a lovely acorn squash at the farmers market; a dull finish and a few spots of orange on the dark green skin meant it was ripe and ready to go. Here’s what I did to it:
One acorn squash
1 TBSP olive oil
Fresh sage (I didn’t have any, so I used dried thyme)
Grated parmesan (optional)
Salt to taste
1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out all of the pulp and seeds with a metal spoon. (Set them aside if you’d like to roast the seeds – instructions to follow).
2. Cut each half of the squash into slices about 3/4″ thick (it’s OK if they aren’t all perfectly even).
3. Toss the slices with olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread into one layer. Sprinkle with herbs and parmesan if using.
4. Roast at 425 degrees or until slices are tender and just starting to caramelize around the edges.
Now, here’s what to do with those seeds. Why let them go to waste? They’re just as tasty as pumpkin seeds, just a little smaller.
1. Separate seeds from pulp as much as possible and rinse.
2. Pat seeds dry and lay flat on a baking sheet. I use the same sheet I used for the squash, as the leftover oil and browned bits give the roasted seeds a nice flavor.
3. Roast seeds at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they just start to turn a golden brown, checking frequently to make sure they don’t burn.
My family devours roasted seaweed snacks. And I couldn’t be more pleased to see my four-year-old and one-year-old stuffing their faces with such a nutrient-loaded superfood. But because we go through so much of this product, I’ve been racked with guilt about the amount of packaging we’re throwing away. We used to buy the roasted seaweed snacks sold at Trader Joe’s which come in plastic trays enclosed in vacuum-sealed wrap and (technically) hold two servings. The inside plastic tray is recyclable, but the outer wrapping is not because it’s some sort of foil-plastic hybrid. The trouble is that we’d easily go through two or three of these small packages a day. I looked for other options at the supermarket, Whole Foods and Costco, but they all only offered individually wrapped packages.
Finally, I started searching the Korean markets. The roasted seaweed options were seemingly endless, and many came packaged in large sheets without the inner plastic tray. This was a little better, but I was still disappointed in the ratio of product to packaging, as each package only held a few large sheets. Eventually, I found a brand that packed 10 large sheets into one package. The brand name is Pulmuone, and it also appears to be sold under the name Wildwood Organics. This led me to do a little project to see how much better the product-to-packaging ratio is for Pulmuone than the Trader Joe’s branded seaweed snacks. Photo documentation and details are below. I know; I’m a total nerd.
One large sheet of seaweed is equal to eight of the smaller sheets. Trader Joe’s roasted seaweed snacks have about 26 small sheets per package, whereas the Pulmuone brand has 10 large sheets, which is equal to 80 of the small sheets. The outer packaging for Pulmuone has about twice as much of the foil/plastic material as one Trader Joe’s package (the TJ’s package in the photo above has been separated and laid out flat in one layer, and the Pulmuone package is still intact). Another way to look at it is TJ’s uses the same amount of outer wrap for 26 sheets as Pulmuone does for approx. 40 sheets, or about 50 percent more packaging. Also, the Pulmuone package does not include an inner plastic tray, nor does it seem to need one, as the sheets stay intact just fine without it.
My advice to roasted seaweed snack lovers is to hit your local Korean market to find Pulmuone, or any other brand that includes 10 or more large sheets per package. In the Los Angeles area, I found it at HK Market in Glendale. If you don’t live near a Korean market, consider ordering online. Happy snacking!
I attended my first food swap last week, and what an inspiring experience it was – worth even the $63 parking ticket I got for not reading the signs carefully (permit parking only on weekends – who’d have thought?).
I brought my raw vegan cookies (cut into star shapes and dubbed “Baby, You’RAW Star Cookies”). I was a little intimidated at first by all of the creative gourmet goodies on display. But once the swap got underway, I felt perfectly comfortable in the company of these culinary artists, especially because everyone was so friendly and generous with their offerings. The samples alone made for the best meal I’d had in weeks (roasted beet hummus, fresh-baked bread, lemon-basil pesto, chocolate-coffee shortbread…) and everyone was very kind in their comments about my raw, vegan treats, which – tasty as they are – are no match for buttery shortbread, chocolate peanut butter pie, and chunky chocolate chip cookies. At the end of the event, I had scored some of that hummus, two kinds of shortbread, homemade pickles, a s’mores kit, herb and cheese biscuits, tofu jerky and an assortment of mini muffins. Not a bad haul at all.
The event got me thinking about new spins on the swapping concept. I’ve already held a toy swap party for my son’s birthday party (read all about it at LA Parent), and I’ve been invited to a few clothing swaps and recently hosted one of my own – stay tuned for a dedicated post. I also host a cookie swap in December every year – it basically serves as my annual holiday party. To inspire my readers and myself to get ever more creative with the idea of trading goods, here are five swapping ideas.
1. Dinner Swap – A more guided food swap, this would involve making a lot of something and meeting up with a group of singletons, couples or families once a week (or monthly, if that’s more manageable) to share the culinary wealth. Casseroles are a natural fit for this, but pasta dishes and vegetable gratins would work great too, as long as they can either keep well for a few days in the fridge or reheat well after being frozen. Even if you only have a group of three people/families participating, that’s three fewer meals you have to think about making.
2. Homemade Beauty Product Party – You can save yourself a lot of money (not to mention concern over possibly harmful ingredients) if you make some of your own beauty and skin care products. Sophie Uliano’s Do It Gorgeously is a great resource for finding recipes – the Vitamin C Serum is my all-time favorite. Get your friends involved be agreeing ahead of time on the concoctions you want to make, and then divvying up the costs for ingredients and containers (I found a lot of what I needed on Amazon). Even better, start planning a few months ahead of time and encourage everyone to save their empty store-bought containers so they can be washed out and reused.
3. Baby Food Swap – Making your own baby food doesn’t have to be hard, but if you’re like me, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of feeding your tot the same thing over and over again (sweet potatoes). If you know other parents with babies of roughly the same age, plan to each make a big batch of their baby’s favorite food and divvy it up at your next group play date. Again, making something that freezes well is ideal.
4. Book Swap – Rather than start a book club in which everyone is obligated to read and discuss the same book, try something a little more informal. Everyone brings books that they’ve already read and don’t want to keep on the shelf anymore – they all go into a pile (yikes, this is starting to sound more like a book burning!), and then each person sorts through and takes what looks interesting. This, like most of these ideas, is a good excuse to get together with friends – you can all have tea together (maybe incorporate a tea swap as well to diversify your selection), or beer, wine, dinner – whatever sounds like the most fun.
5. Clothing Swap – This, to me, is a no-brainer. Why spend money on newly manufactured clothing when you can reap the excess bounty of your friends’ closets instead? I also think it’s the only way to go with kids’ clothing, as they grow out of it so quickly…although, in my experience, most kids’ items are simply handed down from older to younger children, rather than exchanged, which is also wonderful. Clothing swaps for adults could pose challenges, of course, regarding size differences, hotly contested items, etc. I’ll do a more detailed post on the subject after I’ve hosted one myself so I can share what I learn. In the meantime, please comment if you have some tips of your own.
I love pesto. So easy to make, so deliciously fresh-tasting. Plus, it’s a crowd-pleaser – even my picky husband and three-year-old son gobble it right up. After killing several plants from Trader Joe’s, I finally seem to have gotten the hang of growing pesto (placing the pot in a sunny spot in the yard has helped enormously). Now that my basil is thriving, it’s wonderfully satisfying to harvest a few handfuls of leaves every week or so to make pasta with pesto. I also recently learned that parmesan is even higher in calcium than cheddar or swiss, so that’s a nice bonus. I use walnuts instead of pine nuts because I love the flavor and because they’re loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids. Otherwise, I stick to the basic recipe. Why mess with success?
Note: I don’t usually measure everything out when I make pesto, so feel free to adjust these approximations to suit your personal taste.
1 cup fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated or in chunks)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic
Salt to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and chop until the ingredients are fully blended to the desired consistency. Makes enough pesto for about 4 to 6 servings of pasta.