Perspective

We got back recently from a much-needed spring break trip to somewhere much, much warmer than Minnesota. Traveling is always such a good reminder that it’s important to step away from regular life in order to get some perspective on things. Without fail, anytime I leave my home (whether it’s for a quick trip up north to a cabin, or a longer trip to a different country), I am able to see things in a different way. That thing that bothers me so much at home? Space and distance helps me realize it’s not a big deal. Meeting new people from different walks of life? A really good reminder that the bubble I live in is just that: a bubble. It’s important to re-learn this lesson, over and over.

So, I didn’t cook on vacation, and I truly enjoyed being provided with all my meals each day. However, I also realize how hard it is to eat 80/20 (80% health-affirming, 20% whatever TF I want) when I don’t have control over what’s being served. Luckily, the place we stayed had tons of fruits and veggies, really fresh fish and salads, made to order smoothies, etc. On the converse, it also had unlimited open bar and really good churros. I would say I veered more towards the 50/50 or maybe even 40/60, which was totally enjoyable but wholly unsustainable in the long run. I always welcome coming back home to my routine. Here’s a couple of photos of one of my breakfast and lunches, and you can see my plate is filled with really good stuff. On the left is one of my breakfasts and on the right is one of my lunches. I really miss my daily breakfast churro. Not pictured are the very yummy cocktails, the slab of steak and potatoes, the emergency hot dog I had to eat when my blood sugar dropped too low and nothing else was available (at home I would have had a banana, some peanut butter, Triscuits or something similar) and the six or seven mini desserts we would sample from the buffet. And it’s all good.

I came home to an obscene amount of snow mold everywhere, of which I’m super allergic, so this week has been rough so far. My throat is scratchy, my eyes are itchy, my nose is runny, and my energy is nonexistent. My meal plan for the week seems like it might be out the window, which is fine. My husband picked up convenience food from the grocery on the way home last night (veggie sushi and Brussels sprouts for me). I will take each day as it comes. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite recipes from previous posts that you might enjoy. One pot pasta is a perennial favorite and so easy. Customizable in so many ways, you can make it your own. And now that it’s warm in a lot of places, it’s time to bring back the caprese pasta salad we love so much. This one is Dr. Jill Biden’s recipe. If you’re looking for something that isn’t pasta, try this BBQ chicken, Spanish style.

Have a tasty week!

The Cooking Continues! This Week/Last Week

I hope this finds you enjoying some spring-like weather wherever you are. Here in Minnesota the snow is verrrrrry slowly melting, but the sun has decided to come back out and the promise of spring is there.

Last week’s dinner plan went well, and I continue to lean into pivoting with ingredients and sometimes entire menus when needed. One example is the Kathleen Ashmore salad from Monday. I opened the container of arugula to find that it had gone completely bad before I had a chance to use it. The only other thing I had on hand was half of a green cabbage, so I went with it. Not at all the same taste or texture, but it worked. Yesterday I had a persistent allergy headache from all the snow mold (the stuff that grows under the snow on the grass that is uncovered when the snow melts) so I let myself off the hook and instead of making this penne from Sunday’s plan, I threw together penne with jarred Rao’s tomato sauce and instead of the original plan of warm spinach salad, my daughter made a delicious spinach salad with cucumbers, pine nuts, shaved parmesan and this homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Perfect.

This week I’m doing something a little different. I bought ingredients for four different meals, and I am going to let my mood dictate what I make on each day Monday-Thursday. What can I say, I’m feeling sassy (I told you spring was in the air). The recipes for this week are: Kathleen Ashmore Quinoa Glow Salad, this yummy looking Mediterranean vegetable soup, these easy Chicken Sheet Pan Nachos (a request from my daughter), and Simple Veggie Curry. We have salad greens and leftover balsamic vinaigrette, plus some garlic naan in the freezer, so we can have some easy sides to accompany the appropriate dishes.

Here are a couple less-than-ideal photos of what I made last week.

Have a tasty week!

This Week’s Menu/Last Week’s Success

It’s a sunny “warm” day in Minneapolis and I can just feel my energy levels rising. But fair warning: once it’s golf and “outside” season, my cooking tends to fall off a cliff. When it’s gorgeous here, we make full use of the beautiful weather, which means less time spent around a stove. I’m going to try hard to plan ahead for more slow cooker and Instant Pot meals, plus hearty salads that can withstand the refrigerator for a few days so that we will usually have something healthy to eat. It just might look a little more loosely organized than usual.

So, how did last week’s meal plans go (click here to read last week’s blog and access the recipes)? Great! I mostly adhered to the plan. Monday’s scallops were a bit of a bummer because I accidentally bought the tiny bay scallops instead of the nice big buttery ones. But that family still enjoyed them. Tuesday was a cluster because I was late for everything, and forgot that I would be doing something from 4-5:30. I came home in a bad mood (daylight savings time sucks, and I hate it) and was *thisclose* to bailing on the Sicilian chickpea soup, but my daughter sat and kept me company while I cooked and I’m so glad I did it. The soup was delicious, and cooking usually puts me in a better mood. We did in fact go out Wednesday (happy retirement Mark!) and on Thursday we had more delicious food from Eat for Equity. Friday I made the crock pot corned beef meal, which was so delicious that I ate it for three days straight. Saturday night instead of more Eat for Equity, we ordered in sushi from Ama (so good! We love it there!) and last night I decided to bail on making the casserole because we had Italian Wedding Soup and radicchio salad from E4E that we had planned on eating Saturday. I love it when things work out relatively well. I also realize that committing to something and following through when possible feels great. I did a terrible job of taking photos of my meals, but I did remember to snap one of the Sicilian chickpea soup!

Sicilian Chickpea Soup

This week is wonky due to a lot of different activities, so I’m going to try to roll with it even if we aren’t all eating together.

MONDAYThis Kathleen Ashmore salad with garlic naan. My daughter has a dentist appointment at dinner time and then I’m going to play paddle, so this salad will be available for whomever.

TUESDAY – This crock pot Mediterranean lentil stew served over brown rice.

WEDNESDAY – My husband is out at a basketball game and I don’t know that my daughter will be home either, so I’m designating it a “fend night”. There will be leftovers available so will probably dig into those.

THURSDAY – Eat for Equity!

FRIDAY – Order in or eat out

SATURDAY – Eat for Equity

SUNDAY – Penne with roasted tomatoes served with a warm spinach salad (from the America’s Test Kitchen Complete Mediterranean Cookbook). Try this similar penne recipe one, which looks delicious. And this similar spinach salad recipe.

And I think that’s it! I hope you have a delicious week!

What We Ate Last Week & What’s On The Menu This Week

Remember how a few weeks ago I said that most of the time my meal plans go awry for some reason or another? This last week was the perfect example. Monday and Tuesday went great, when I made farotto and a salad (risotto made with farro) and Tuscan bean soup with bruschetta, respectively. Wednesday things went off the rails when I found out the rest of my family had things going on and would not be joining me for dinner. So, I kept the scallops in the freezer and ordered myself Crisp & Green for takeout. I love C&G salads, but I’m a little irritated that probably 50% of the time something is wrong with my order. Still, they are really yummy and healthy so I keep getting them. Thursday, we had Eat for Equity as planned, and Friday my husband got us reservations at Martina, one of my favorite places to eat and have a cocktail. We had scallops, pasta, and Brussels sprout salad, with a delicious banana caramel crepe for dessert. Our plans Saturday were foiled because our paddle party was cancelled due to weather, so we punted and had more Eat for Equity. We tried watching Jurassic World Dominion but it was just meh so we switched to our daughter’s high school’s championship hockey game, which was super fun to watch, and they won state! Sunday I heated up the lasagne from Eat for Equity and we had that and a salad while watching the Oscars. My daughter put together this fun snack tray below. Yes, there’s candy and cookies there! And microwave popcorn. These are all ok (we practice moderation). I lost the Oscar’s ballot competition by a mile.

Oscar’s Snack Tray

Moving on to this week’s plan!

MONDAY: The scallop recipe from last week’s post, along with some leftover roasted vegetables from Eat For Equity.

TUESDAY: Sicilian chickpea and escarole soup with whole grain bread dipped in olive oil.

WEDNESDAY: We have a retirement party to attend, so we will be out (on a school night!)

THURSDAY: Eat for Equity

FRIDAY: Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been told this is not an actual traditional St. Patrick’s meal, but I love corned beef and cabbage and eat it once a year, at most, on this day.

SATURDAY: Eat for Equity

SUNDAY: French onion soup casserole. My daughter and I are big fans of French onion soup, and this just looks cozy and delicious and I love the addition of white beans. Sadly, winter is far from over here, so this recipe just spoke to me, and it came highly recommended.

I hope you have a delicious and restful week! I will need some extra zzz’s thanks to Daylight Savings Time.

What I Cooked Last Week/What I Plan To Cook This Week

I got a lot of interest in my meal planning post last week. And it makes sense. There are some weeks when I sit down to plan the menu for the week and I think “What do I even cook?” My mind just goes completely blank. It’s nice to see what other people are doing with their cooking lives and get new ideas.

First things first: how closely did my actual cooking life last week resemble the plan? I give myself an 9/10. The only change was that on Wednesday I made homemade chicken noodle soup out of the leftover roast chicken because my kiddo wasn’t feeling well. (FYI, if your celery is looking anemic and bendy, throw it in some soup instead of tossing it in the garbage or compost). So I punted on the coconut curry until Thursday, which punted the Eat For Equity meal until Friday. Which means on Friday instead of going out or ordering in, we assembled the most amazing shrimp po’ boys topped with coleslaw made with miso dressing and collards with raisins. We were supposed to go out with friends Saturday but that stupid cold that’s going around foiled our plans, so while our daughter was out, we ate Po’ Boy leftovers and watched the Yellowstone prequel 1923. This time we also ate braised butter beans along with it, also from Eat For Equity. And tonight, we are going out, an usual plan for us for Sunday evening. Anyway, maybe I should give myself an 11/10 for cooking an additional meal this week. Here are some photos of the things we ate. As I keep saying, I’m not a professional blogger who curates amazing photos. I’m a real person who doesn’t have the patience to stage a photo, so you’ll see real-life depictions of what food actually looks like.

This week, I plan on making the following (they are all from the America’s Test Kitchen The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook so I’ll provide similar recipe links. OR you can buy the book or pay to have access to the recipes online):

MONDAY: Roast cod with chermoula (a sauce made with cilantro and other delicious things), and broccolini with garlic and red pepper flakes.

TUESDAY: I’m chaperoning my daughter’s Model United Nations conference and then playing paddle (if you don’t know, definitely watch the video link. It’s such a fun winter sport!) Tuesday late afternoon, so I’ll be pulling out a peanut stew with winter vegetables from the freezer that I ordered from Eat for Equity. The recipe is from Bryant Terry’s Afro Vegan Cookbook. I plan on serving it with toasted sourdough.

WEDNESDAY: Pasta with zucchini and tomatoes and pine nuts, served with a green salad with Marcona almonds and manchego cheese.

THURSDAY: Eat For Equity

FRIDAY: Out

SATURDAY: Eat For Equity

SUNDAY: Crappy Dinner Party (if you don’t know about this yet, read about it here). It’s our turn to host, and I’m thinking maybe my husband can smoke something in our smoker, TBD).

I also plan on making a chopped salad with chickpeas along the way for lunch. Something like this but with my leftover goat cheese instead of feta. As usual, I will also probably eat avocado toast with an easy salad once or twice. Here’s a photo of what my lunches look like most days.

I hope you all have a delicious and healthy week ahead.

Recipes For Fresh Dill, Plus Freezing Instructions So You Can Enjoy All Year Long

Dill, the perfect summer herb

We have a plethora of fresh dill from our CSA box (not to mention more that neighbors have given to us). I have previously frozen oregano and thyme with wonderful results, and I am so excited to have a freezer bag of dill to use when the cold months arrive.

Dill is one of my favorite herbs (maybe my absolute favorite herb) and can be used in so many dishes. I am a big fan of using dill on my roasted salmon and chicken dishes year round. Check out this salmon recipe and this roasted chicken recipe for some great ideas.

In the meantime, this summer, try this delicious looking dill potato salad or this gorgeous easy cucumber dill salad with feta. And if you want to make your own easy refrigerator pickles, here’s your recipe. If you are as crazy about dill as I am and the thought of drinking a cocktail infused with this fabulous herb delights you, maybe try this one.

Wondering how to easily freeze your leftover dill? Simply rinse the bunch well, shake it out, and place on a cookie sheet. Flash freeze it, then transfer to a gallon ziplock baggie or other freezer safe container. When you want to use it later this year, simply snip off a piece and throw it in your dish. Easy!

Why You Should Teach Your Kid To Cook

I recently wrote a piece for Your Teen Magazine making the case for why every teen should know how to cook. If you have been following me for any length of time you will probably know that I enjoy cooking immensely, and I feel very comfortable in the kitchen.

This wasn’t always the case. As I write in the article, I grew up not knowing how to cook, and I went away to college having not even the most basic of skills. I think knowing how to perform the most common “adult” tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry are essential for every teenager. I went to college not knowing how to do any of those things, which looking back seems unbelievable.

I believe that one of the main goals in raising a child is to help them become productive adults who can get along well in the world. This means having good social skills, being able to have a conversation with an adult, and knowing how to shake hands. In my opinion it also means knowing things like how to make an entire meal from scratch, how to chop and dice using the appropriate chef’s knives, and how to make cooking calculations in your head (ie: four tablespoons = 1/4 cup).

Teaching your kids how to cook can be messy and frustrating. My daughter has been in the kitchen with me since she was a baby. There has been a lot of spilling and mistakes over the years, and moments when I would just rather do it myself.  But just this past weekend she made a healthy banana blueberry bread from scratch that turned out beautifully. It made me realize it was all worthwhile.

These “soft skills” are just as essential in building a capable adult as all the other skills we want our kids to have. It gives them confidence, allowing them to begin their young adult lives with a head start.

I’m curious: what was your experience growing up. Did you leave for college or other post-high school adventure knowing essential “adult” skills? If so, how did it help you in other aspects of your life? Is there anything you wished you had done differently with your own kids? Comment below!

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Giant Scallions

This summer I am in a CSA share with my good friend Shawn. In case you didn’t know, CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. You buy a seasonal “share” from a local farm and each week you receive a box of produce (or cheese or whatever that farm specializes in). If you want to learn more and find a farm near you, click here. Anyway, we both have families of three so our boxes get split up very evenly and it’s a nice way to try new fruits and veggies. For instance, in yesterday’s box there were a smattering of gooseberries, which I had never tried. That was fun.

Also in yesterday’s box were the most gigantic scallions (also known as green onions) I have ever seen. One of these scallions probably equals four or five store-bought scallions. I got very excited because I adore green onions in any format. In fact, when I was a child, my grandma used to serve them raw on her veggie plate at her annual backyard BBQ and I would gladly gobble them up. I pity the fool who smelled my breath after that.

scallions
Giant scallions from the CSA

Onions are a powerful source of antioxidants and are part of the Allium family (along with garlic). They are rich in anti-cancer compounds called phenols and flavanoids. They are also rich in alliinase which is believed to be heart protective. They are anti-inflammatory and overall a very healthy food to add to your regular diet.

I got a little overwhelmed with the size and quantity of the scallions yesterday so I asked on my Cultivate Wellness Facebook page for cooking ideas and got some great ones. I thought that I would compile and share some of them here so you, too, can be empowered in your scallion cooking journey.

How about Tessa’s idea to make some Afghan Dumplings with Lamb Kofta and Yogurt Sauce?

Maria says “My favorite way to cook green onions is in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper! I do it on a medium/high ( depending on your stove) you want the onions to break down and get a little char! It’s about a 10 min cooking time.”

Lara suggested adding them to a batch of cold Potato Leek Soup (I can get on board with that! Plus we got potatoes in our box this week, too).

Allison wrote that she was using her CSA scallions to make a Minty Orzo Salad with Grilled Beef. That recipe isn’t available online but here’s one that looks ah-mazing.

Sally used her giant scallions to make Crab Cakes. I do love a crab cake.

Molly likes to make Smitten Kitchen’s Spicy Green Onion Slaw recipe, which looks absolutely delicious. I love a slaw in any form.

How fun that so many people participate in a CSA?! At least a couple of the readers who chimed in with ideas got their giant scallions this week too. I love that.

If you have a favorite scallion/green onion recipe, please leave it in the comments! Happy cooking!

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Your Immune System — Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

We’re in it, people. It’s cold and flu season and everywhere you go someone has a cough, the sniffles, a sore throat, or worse. How do we keep ourselves healthy and energetic all season long? One approach is through our food choices. Excess sugar, processed carbs and too much alcohol will suppress our body’s ability to fight off infection (which is a shame because aren’t the holidays MOSTLY ABOUT SUGAR, CARBS AND COCKTAILS?!?!). I’m not advocating giving up your favorite holiday treats, because part of what keeps us healthy is not being stressed out. Also spending time enjoying ourselves with people we love is pretty high up on the list for immune-boosting activities, and if we are hyper focused on every little thing we put in our mouths, we will ruin it for ourselves and those around us.

However, what I would like to encourage is making the majority of your food choices healthy ones. So, when you are cooking/eating at home, which should be most of the time, make those meals impactful. Start every day with a healthy breakfast because it helps keep the rest of the day on track (click here, here, here or here for great breakfast choices). For lunch, choose something like a big salad with good quality proteins like chicken and chickpeas, and choose olive oil and vinegar dressing. Or, make a huge batch of soup on Sunday and eat it all week long. I love the hearty lentil soup I make all winter.

You want high quality protein, you want good sources of fiber and fat (the good kind, like olive oil, those found in nuts, coconut oil, and organic and grass fed meats). And pile on the vegetables and fruits. The more antioxidants you eat the better. They will reduce inflammation which will help fight off cold and flu bugs. They also contain natural antiviral and antibacterial agents.

Check out this recipe for Carrot Ginger Turmeric soup. Carrots are very high in vitamin A which is essential for a healthy immune system. Ginger and turmeric contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It’s warming and soothing for the coldest days and will keep you nourished.

Stay tuned for more immune boosting recipes and information!

*If you don’t like coconut oil or are allergic, feel free to sub with olive oil.

Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup (recipes for immune system).png

 

Crappy Dinner Party (It’s A Good Thing!)

crappy dinner party

I am blessed to have the most fabulous neighbors. When we moved in almost seven years ago, my immediate next door and kitty-corner neighbors welcomed us with enthusiasm. Since then our families have played together, eaten together, traveled together and spent Christmas Eve together.

However, we are a busy bunch, and it can be difficult to find time when we can all come together. Between high stress jobs, kids’ activities, and family commitments, weeks and sometimes a month or two can go by before we can see one another. For a couple of years we’ve been talking about the concept of the Crappy Dinner Party, wherein everyone pitches in whatever they have in their fridge (no shopping allowed!) and the host family does no cleaning, no fussing and no elaborate anything. The point is to allow us to spend time with one another without stress. I’m happy to say that this Sunday my family hosted the Inaugural Crappy Dinner Party. I made some vegetarian tostadas from a meal kit service that I was planning on making anyway. Catherine brought turkey taco fixings that she was making for her family that night regardless and some drinks for the kids. Tom brought gin (because, COCKTAILS) and grapes and veggies. I threw some buttered noodles in there for the kids. We cut up a watermelon. I didn’t even wipe up the crumbs from the dinner table from the previous night BECAUSE CRAPPY DINNER PARTY RULES ARE NOT TO BE BROKEN. We used paper plates (that we composted, please don’t yell!) and it was probably the most relaxed dinner party I’ve ever had in my life. And this was with 6 kids and 5 adults!

Some integral people in my friend zone were missing, as I threw the dinner idea together somewhat last minute. Deanna had to work (so she sent her husband and kids), Shawn and family had plans, and Erika (a new friend to me but a dear friend to my friends so obviously she’s on the list!) couldn’t come, but here’s the thing: now that we’ve started this it’s going to happen more frequently. Once you release the pressure of cleaning and putting together an elaborate spread, it becomes a joy and not a burden. Catherine has already planned the next one at her house.

How do you host your own Crappy Dinner Party? Let me summarize the rules for you:

  1. DON’T CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. Move some piles if they get in the way of eating but otherwise hands off.
  2. NO GROCERY SHOPPING. Make what you have, even if it’s beans and rice.
  3. EVERYONE BRINGS SOMETHING THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE. Even especially if it’s gin.
  4. ENJOY YOURSELVES.
  5. REPEAT again and again because it’s fun and you realize your friends just want to see each other, even if the house is messy.

Do you have your own Crappy Dinner Party rules? Let me hear them!

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