THANKSGIVING

thanksgiving table

It’s Monday, and for Americans it’s also the week of Thanksgiving.  This is usually the week where we think and talk about food nonstop.  What will we make?  What will we eat?  What will we have for leftovers?  Pie. Casserole.  Marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes.  Stuffing (my FAVORITE).  It’s a bit overwhelming.

Many fitness and diet experts will give you all kinds of rules and tips to navigate the holidays.  And many of those tips and tricks sap all the fun out of everything.  Don’t eat carbs.  Don’t have gravy.  Skip the dinner roll.  Only have one glass of wine.  Calories in/calories out.

I say, forget that.  Remember that quote I posted last week about how it’s what you eat on a regular basis that counts?  

It's fine to socializeoccasionally with special food and drink.-2

It’s true.  Do you nourish your body with the good stuff more often than not?  Do you give yourself ample opportunities to eat fruits and veggies and drink lots of water?  Even if you answered no, are you really going to start doing this on THANKSGIVING?

Stressing yourself out and feeling anxious and guilty about what you eat messes with your stress hormones, which release into your body, flooding it with chemicals that will inhibit your digestion.  The stress hormone Cortisol is to blame for excess belly fat in many people.  So do me a favor (heck, do yourself the favor) and relax.  If you’re going to eat something decadent, do it with joy and happiness.  Don’t sneak it.  Don’t chew it up quickly and swallow the evidence before anyone has a chance to “catch” you.  Savor it. Enjoy every bite.  AND MOST OF ALL, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. When it’s had enough, respect that and put the fork down. And for goodness sake, never, ever comment on how much someone else is eating, what their body looks like, or how it’s now time to “work off all those calories”. 

And the next day, enjoy a green smoothie as part of my Green Smoothie Challenge, a bit of exercise, some fresh air, and the company of the people around you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Easy Roasted Sausage and Veggies

sausage veggies from above
Lots of vegetables and a little bit of sausage

You know those nights where you want to make a hearty and healthy dinner for your family, but with minimal effort and fuss?  This is the dish for those nights.  You will want to put it in your weekly rotation.  It’s so versatile because every time you make it, it comes out a little different.  You can experiment with unique spices, veggies, sausages. You can even make it completely vegan with some sausage made from vital wheat gluten (I find mine at Whole Foods).

My friend Linda first told me how she would make this super easy and delicious meal for her two sons and husband on a regular basis.  That same night I went home and make it for my family, and sure enough it was a big hit.  Not only that, but it’s economical as you can use less sausage than if it were the main event.  Save money by using in-season and local veggies (which are always cheaper than meat anyway).

This is what you do.  Go to the store and purchase any pre-cooked sausage that looks good.  I usually buy an organic version of chicken apple sausage since that’s what my 10 year old daughter loves.  But any kind of sausage will do.  Cut it into rounds and place in a rimmed baking sheet.  Forage in your refrigerator and pantry for whatever vegetables you have on hand for roasting (or pick some up when you grab the sausages).  Tonight I used mushrooms, potatoes, asparagus, onions, carrots and cauliflower.  Chop and place the veggies in the same baking sheet, and mix everything up.

Liberally drizzle olive oil over the whole thing.  Season with whatever feels good at the time.  For me it’s always salt, pepper, garlic powder.  Then I’ll add whatever else I feel like, which tonight meant rosemary and chives.

sausage veggies uncooked close up
There’s so many veggies in here!

Stick in the oven at 450 (or lower if you have more than about 45 minutes) to roast. Use a fork in the most dense vegetable from time to time to check doneness.  Serve with warm bread and fruit for a complete meal.

When it’s done, let cool and watch it disappear.  For larger families you may need two or even three baking sheets. One works for my family of three with my husband and daughter always going back for seconds, and we end up with extras to spare for leftovers.

sausage veggies cooked
Sausage and veggies all roasted and delicious.

Quinoa and Veggie Salad

Quinoa salad

Ok, so last night we were lucky enough to be invited to a private event at the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis which included the coolest theater experience we’ve ever had (a fully immersive and interactive performance of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) followed by a traditional lobster boil by Smack Shack.  It was amazing.

I woke up this morning feeling like I wanted to eat a bit lighter, and I had some leftover cooked quinoa and tofu from the Veggie Dumplings we made yesterday so I decided I’d make a salad for my family to have for lunch today.  I wanted something light and easy.  I had some fresh green onions and cucumbers from the farmer’s market in the fridge and peas in the freezer.  I always have garlic powder, salt and pepper, so those were no-brainers.  Below is the recipe I created, which is totally vegan.  It’s easy to sub out the tofu for another protein of your choice: beans, feta cheese, even shredded chicken.  

Quinoa super up close

QUINOA AND VEGGIE SALAD

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa (I like adding a bit of vegetable Better Than Bouillon to mine when cooking)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • course sea salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  • Mix everything together (think you can manage?)

This would be an easy salad to double the recipe and keep it around for lunches and side dishes all week.

EAT WELL!

Vegetable Dumplings — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

veggie dumplings

Remember those beauties?  Vegan Dumplings were the big winners in the poll for the first recipe I would test from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good cookbook.  You’ll remember from a previous post that I received the book as a birthday gift, and that Gwyneth and I have a long, complicated history.  Mostly it’s me not being sure if I should love her or loathe her.  It’s so hard to decide.  Regardless, I love the look of many of the recipes in her cookbook and so I decided I would cook my way through it and report back. What I want to find out are:  Are her recipes approachable?  Can a middle aged busy mom without a nanny, a cook, a housecleaner and other household help actually find the time to make the creations within?  The only way to find out is to try.

I accumulated the ingredients for the dumplings pretty easily (you know what, I like to say potstickers better, and I think the way I made them are more like potstickers, so let’s go with that from now on).  It wasn’t a crazy list with lots of expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. 

My kiddo has been in camp all week and I really wanted her help with this one, so I waited until today to make these.  You’ll notice in the photos she’s wearing her Angry Birds pajamas.  In this house, we cook in our pajamas.

The end result is that they turned out amazing.  They were really delicious and perfect and we couldn’t stop eating them.  They might not be as beautiful as the stock photo I used above.  I’m thinking I should invest in a food styling course.

finished potstickers

The downside is that they are really messy to make, including a lot of splattering if you choose to pan fry them (which we did, because PAN FRYING IS AWESOME). The cleanup wasn’t fun, but then again it never is.  My best piece of advice is to always try to clean up as you go so it isn’t so overwhelming at the end.  Here is my kitchen at the end of everything.  SO. MUCH. MESS.

dirty kitchen

So here’s the recipe, adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Vegan Veggie Dumplings (I can’t legally reprint the whole recipe here without her permission, and even though I emailed last week to ask for it, I’m guessing her people have better things to do, which may or may not include sourcing local and organic tomatillos for her kids’ lunches.)

Vegan Potstickers Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small red or yellow onion, or even two or three green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled firm tofu (I haven’t tested this but I bet you could use ground chicken, turkey or other animal protein in place of the tofu.  You know it wouldn’t be vegan anymore, though, right?)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I love adding a bit of vegetable Better Than Bouillon to my quinoa when it’s cooking.  It adds flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (I used olive oil which technically isn’t a neutral oil but it worked out fine.  You could also use canola)
  • Pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 48 square wonton wrappers found in the refrigerated section, typically near the tofu
  • Dipping sauce for serving (see below for recipe)

Vegan Potstickers Directions:

  • Pulse the cabbage, onion and garlic in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped.

potsticker filling in food processor

  • In a large non-stick skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the cabbage mixture with a hefty pinch of sea salt.
  • Cook and stir occasionally until the veggies have softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.

potsticker filling on stove

  • Add in the tofu, peas and quinoa and continue cooking until the peas are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Use a potato masher to smush up the mixture until it sticks together.  We allowed some of the peas to stay whole because we wanted a bit more texture.

mashing poststicker filling

  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Make an assembly line of several wonton wrappers and put 1 teaspoon of the filling mixture in the center of each wrapper. Wet your finger in a small bowl of water and use it to moisten the edges of each dumpling. Carefully fold the corners over making a triangle, making sure you press all the edges to form a good seal.

filling potstickers

  • Heat a bit of the neutral oil (like canola) in a large nonstick skillet set at high heat. Cook the dumplings for 2 minutes, or until they are golden brown on the bottom.

potstickers in pan

  • When the potstickers are browned to your liking on the bottom, add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet, putting the lid on and allowing the dumplings to steam until the wrappers are completely soft, about 2 minutes. Serve with the dipping sauce recipe below. ***Make sure if you are using a skillet that isn’t non-stick that you pay close attention to the potstickers because they will cook a lot more quickly than in a non-stick skillet. (See the photo below for what happens when you don’t pay close enough attention.)

burnt potstickers

  • Vegan Potsticker Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use lower sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine all ingredients with a fork or a whisk and serve alongside the potstickers.

EAT WELL!

Vegetables Shmegetables

peas in a pod

My 10 year old is having a bit of a moment. It happens every so often. My normally fruit-and-veggie gobbling machine doesn’t want them. But, she will eat cherry tomatoes off the vine. And maybe a clementine and some slices of cuke. But those grapes she asked me to buy? And the blueberries and raspberries that normally wouldn’t last more than a day or two? Languishing in the fridge. The peas for dinner? Cast aside after a couple of bites. She’s all about the carbs and protein right now. She’s in horse camp from 8am to 5pm all week and honestly I think she is just wanting some heartier fare.

I’ve never believed in cajoling, imploring “just two more bites” or setting an amount she must eat to have dessert. That’s just not how we’ve decided to do it. Every family has different rules. But you know, there are some days when even I really don’t want whatever I’ve cooked, or I have an aversion to veggies or whatever. So I get it. And I know that in a couple of days she’ll be back to eating her weight in apple slices. In the meantime I’ll make sure the other food I offer has decent nutritional value. And if the grape tomatoes could ripen on the vine a little quicker that would be good too.