Healthier recipe ideas for popular kid friendly dinner recipes.Read More
I got to hear Ruth Reichl speak here in Pittsburgh a few months ago, touring for her new cookbook. As my friend Megan said, "I could just listen to her velvety voice all day." Megan and I were running late, but my friend Karen saved us seats on the very front of the balcony. We raced up 3 flights of stairs - no small feat considering I was 7 months pregnant - and slid into the seats just as the lights dimmed.
Despite being harried, I was quickly transported as Ms. Reichl wove the tale of her journey through food writing and then told the heartbreaking story of the closure of Gourmet. She captured all of that heartbreak in her beautiful voice - the kitchen full of moldering food, the library of every cookbook and tome Gourmet had received - almost ending up on the curb.
She mentioned that even though it was tragic and represented a form of failure, she had always wanted to write a fiction book, and wandering through that library weeks after Gourmet had closed she found her inspiration.
I told my mom about getting to see her (and finally learning how to properly pronounce her name -- Rye-shell, not Rye-kyl) and what a wonderful talk it was. When my mom heard I had not read her fiction book - Delicious!, she surprised me with it for Christmas.
I have been reading a lot since my second son was born at the end of the November - but mostly mysteries, and mostly on the Kindle app on my phone which I seem to always have on me -- day or night, during feeding.
The book sat on my nightstand for months, until a recnt weekend when I sat in the glider with sunshine streaming through the window, a sleeping 6-month-old in my arms, I finally picked it up.
To be honest, I was a little afraid. I have loved all of her food memoirs, but I was afraid of reading it and being disappointed. That the writing would feel wooden or trite.
Of course, I shouldn't have been worried at all.
Somehow, just reading the first few pages, I felt inspired. Perhaps by the talent, the story, the sunshine, who can say.
I have held onto all the Gourmet magazine I ever received (save one or two issues that slid through the cracks). I started a subscription when I moved in with my friend Emily in Pittsburgh in 2001. That was the first "real" apartment I had other than my funky house the last two years of college. So I have all the issues from the end of 2001 - starting, poignantly, with the 60th-anniversary issue, and through the last issue: November 2009.
It's still a favorite place to look for meal inspiration. Particularly around the holidays. I love to pull down all the December issues to look for cookie recipes, or all the April issues for Easter inspiration.
I've recently just been thumbing through old issues again, and came upon this wonderful stir-fry recipe, for which I had all the ingredients. I actually made it with tempeh even though I had chicken because I wanted to see if I could make it vegetarian. One of my custom meal planning clients is a vegetarian and I was looking for a great weeknight recipe to include in her plan.
This Tempeh Stir Fry is inspired by a recipe I found while thumbing through the pages of the old May 2007 issue. The original recipe calls for chicken, but tempeh works really great here.
"When should I meal plan?"
This is up there at the top of the list of questions I get all the time. And the fact is that many people are planning on the wrong day. Your plan should respond to your shopping habits and schedule and that might not follow the typical week as we think of it.
We think that our weeks have to operate Monday to Sunday or Sunday through Saturday and that is simply not true.
I had a client once who ordered from a CSA (farm share) delivery service each week, and she placed the order on Tuesday and the food was delivered on Wednesday. But she usually planned her meals on Sunday night.
My tip for her: meal plan the night before you place your order, and be sure to do an inventory of ingredients you have leftover before you start.
What is your meal planning schedule?
Your meal planning schedule may be different from your work/family schedule. Your food schedule is dependent on when you typically grocery shop. I prefer to go first thing Saturday or Sunday morning so I typically meal plan Friday or Saturday night. I batch cook Sunday night and don't think about it the rest of the week.
Your "meal planning week" might look very different than your work or school week! Don't be afraid to plan meals from Thursday to Wednesday or Friday through Thursday. Do what works. You'll find that this change could really help your schedule.
I had another client whose husband shopped Friday afternoons because he got off work early. But because they didn't meal plan he would just buy whatever looked good to him, and without the right ingredients to prepare more than a couple they were back to the grocery store by Tuesday.
My tip to her: Set aside 20-30 minutes together and meal plan Thursday night instead of over the weekend. Try not to go to the grocery store first and then plan from what you buy. This is how you get food waste and how you end up at the grocery store two more times that week.
Stay tuned for even more meal planning tips and tricks!
I'm so over those expensive meal delivery services with their over-packaged food. Here is what you can do instead!Read More
I was catching up with a client a few weeks ago to update her meal plan. We were talking about time-savers for weeknight meals. I leaned in conspiratorially and looked briefly to my right and left. "You know what I've been doing lately," I whispered, "forgetting the garlic."
"Not like in pesto or anything," I quickly equivocated, "just like in really complex dishes where the flavor gets lost. I swear it saves like ten minutes off my cooking time."
Peeling and mincing garlic is "fiddly," as Nigella would say and many of her recipes contain the trifecta of garlic-chile-ginger as the key flavor component and I wouldn't dream of leaving them out.
So here are two recipes inspired by chefs I admire: Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson. Both recipes are complex and flavorful, both taste great together, and only one really needs the garlic that is called for. There, I said it. Leave the garlic out of the Vegetarian Feijoada (a traditionally Brazilian stew) and you probably won't miss it. And all this is coming from someone who used to swallow garlic cloves whole in high school. But something like broccomole definitely can benefit from the bite of the garlic. If you have the time, by all means add it as an additional layer of complexity. But if it is 5 p.m. on a Wednesday night and complexity is not in your game plan - forget the garlic.
Hello from Maya's mom.
Two years ago I heard about an anti-inflammatory diet that was developed by a woman on Vashon Island in the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to address a health issue and had friends who had found the program to be helpful. The initial three-week regimen requires you to abstain from dairy, sugar, gluten—even the tiniest bit added to foods you would not suspect i.e. soy sauce. But there was plenty left to eat and I did feel much better following the plan. After the initial stage, you move to a maintenance program that I have adapted to my own needs ever since.
What I find is that I eat much less bread, cheese, meat, and dairy fat, though I still enjoy those things when I feel like it. For example, instead of toast for breakfast I now enjoy oatmeal with nuts and bananas or homemade granola with yogurt and berries. Now I find my food choices emphasize whole grains, vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts, seeds, chicken, and fish. At least once a week I make a big dinner salad like this quinoa salad with roasted vegetables.
As for sugar, it is the ingredient I’ve mostly abandoned. Of course I still make a killer flourless chocolate cake for special occasions, but the days of buying a cookie or muffin to go with my coffee at a café are long over. Those sweets taste strange to me now. I’ve replaced many desserts with healthier options - like this delicious Moroccan Almond Cake. I had it at a party and got the recipe, surprised to find out you had to cook whole oranges (?!) This is a new family favorite; it does have a cup of sugar but I use coconut sugar (Trader Joe’s) as it has a lower glycemic index and adds a note of caramel to the cake. I have a friend who likes it so much she has it for breakfast topped with yogurt and fruit. Give it a try for Mother’s Day!
When I got home from work earlier this week my husband turned to me and said, "These are the best lentils I have ever eaten!" Well, you could have knocked me over with the adorable leaf on the 'a' in my logo. My husband is not, shall we say, way into vegetarian food.
As I mentioned last week, and probably the week before, his favorite meal is Chicken Enchilada Casserole. I made these lentils utilizing the poaching liquid leftover from last week's chicken casserole extravaganza. I had a little over half a can of tomato paste I was going to add in for some extra flavor when I remembered I had pinned this flavor-boosting trick from Bon Appetit so I caramelized the tomato paste before adding it to the lentils. Fresh herbs add brightness and yet another layer of flavor taking these truly over the top if you are looking for a new favorite vegetarian meal. Make sure to follow me on Pinterest for more great recipes and cooking tips!
Get the recipe for Lentils with Greens and Caramelized Tomato Paste here.
Roasting veggies is another great (possibly the greatest) way to bring out the flavor. Check out my mom's recipe for roasted red cabbage, it's awesome as a side dish or is great stirred into the lentils. I prefer to eat it right off the baking sheet, but now that I've tasted it in these lentils I *might* change my ways.
*my husband also hates the words "tasty veggies." When we were dating long distance I would always send him care packages that were marked: DOES NOT CONTAIN TASTY VEGGIES.
This week I'll be making three (yes, three) casseroles - my Chicken Enchilada Casserole from last week to be exact. We will be taking one over to a friend's house because they just had a baby and the other we are delivering to another family also with a new addition. And of course, I am also making one for us to have! It's my husband's favorite dish, and he will eat it for lunch all week and we can also get a couple dinners out of it.
A friend of mine set up a meal delivery schedule for a new mother here in Pittsburgh who is also new to the U.S. having immigrated here earlier this year from the Ukraine. I love participating in things like this, and it just works out that I can double up on the casseroles because both babies came at the same time.
This week I'm also making a favorite vegetarian recipe - one my mom introduced me to while she was here taking care of us last year when my son was born. The Ikarian Longevity Stew is so delicious and perfect for the cold spring we are having right now because the warming stew is brightened up with the freshness of the dill and fennel. I'll replace the fresh tomatoes the recipe calls for with canned, and will use up the leftover tomatoes and tomato paste to make a delicious chicken cooked with tomatoes and olives (recipe here).
So, how can I help you? You can download my weeknight meal plan and grocery list for next week right here (just don't forget the quantities are enough to make three chicken enchiladas). Reduce the quantities accordingly, or make three and freeze for the future or to share with someone you know who could use a hand right now. I buy a couple extra aluminum baking pans to keep on hand for this type of thing.
What else is a challenge for you when it comes to meal planning? Click here to send me a message and tell me about it.
For the last 5 years several old friends and I have made it a tradition to get our families together for Easter. Why Easter? Well, it happened fairly organically. We got together the first year and then after that just started reserving the weekend to spend with each other.
The first year, we hosted everyone and I went totally overboard on setting up the house and planning the food. We had so much food to cook and prepare that we barely had time to spend with each other. I thought that what we ate would somehow create the memory when of course getting together with these people I have known most of my life and the families they have created is how the memories are made.
It's tempting to go overboard, but when you are relaxed and enjoying yourself you will remember the moments much more.
My tip for creating a memorable meal or gathering? Don't do what I did!* Pick 1-2 things that really matter to you and let the other stuff go. Happiness is when you create your own definition of success based on what is really meaningful to you and let go of perfection.
It was harder than I thought.
How many countless people did I cheerfully tell "I'll get back to work a few weeks after the baby is born." "I'll just work while he sleeps."
Well, it was harder than I thought. It wasn't being constantly covered in spit-up, that our second son wanted to constantly be held*, or that our first son constantly needed extra love and attention. It came down really to just one thing: sleep deprivation.
With a fuzzy head and the memory of a goldfish I was so glad I had a meal planning system in place so that we could keep functioning after our support system hopped a plane back to California. My mom may have left us with a freezer full of delicious, healthy meals, but some nights I really wanted to cook something fresh or prepare a great salad.
A huge part of my meal planning system is giving myself flexibility. During this period of transition to a larger family, it was key to meal plan, but also not stay too wedded to an exact menu - one of my favorite meal planning hacks (click here to get 3 Meal Planning Hacks to Save Your Time Right Now).
No matter what your kid status, you're using a diaper as a dishtowel, right? No? Well, as it seems to me as though most dishtowels are not designed to actually absorb anything, this trick is a favorite of mine. Using a cloth diaper as a dishtowel in the kitchen is perfect, it's soft, absorbs liquid, can get stained, and can really take a beating after being used and washed over and over. It's also great for absorbing excess water on greens and other just-washed vegetable and fruits - try rolling up spinach or other greens you need to squeeze excess water from in a cloth diaper and squeezing out the excess water.
In fact, I'm not all that sad that most dishtowels seem to prefer to be on display. People love to buy me dish towels and I have so many cute prints I love to display. But after being used in the kitchen, real workhorse dishtowels are stained beyond repair and need to be washed constantly. And let's face it, I have a 4 year-old and a 3 month-old, I'm not pretreating my dishtowels.
Side benefits of using cloth diapers in the kitchen - when your dishtowels are actually working for you you will cut way down on your paper towel usage.
The only real con is that they need to be washed frequently and hung up in the kitchen after every use to dry out - and once they get really wet they can take a long time to dry.
Tip! Every time you do laundry grab your dish towels from the kitchen and throw them in the wash. You can't really wash them frequently enough - and at a minimum you need to wash them once a week.
Trick - you can buy cloth diapers easily at Target or similar stores, and these will work great but if you want something even more absorbent, consider investing in a few "real" cloth diapers. You need to wash them a few times before use but they will be way more absorbent and last longer than the ones you get at the store.
If you don't want to use diapers in your kitchen, definitely consider investing in some flour sack towels like chefs use. Next time someone spills cranberry juice your hand won't hesitate reaching for your new Marimekko dish towel. You'll know just what to reach for.
Why did I photograph this beautiful pumpkin risotto with spinach and roasted butternut squash on my ugly formica table? Well, my husband and son rode their bikes home from preschool, which took longer than they thought, and by the time they got home, everyone was hungry. Including the eight-month pregnant photographer (that's me).
So while it is not the greatest photo, the food itself is so beautiful it doesn't even matter. I had roasted some butternut squash the other day with the thought of making a risotto. Risotto is easy on a weeknight. And there are totally no-stir risotto recipes out there. But if you have 20 minutes to be stove-adjacent, risottos are pretty easy.
When I started looking for a recipe I suddenly had this idea of making a risotto with pumpkin puree. No one's done that before, I thought. Well, it turns out, like almost everything, yes, lots of people have done that before. I used this recipe from the New York Times, making some modifications, like the addition of maple syrup (just a little!) and rosemary.
Toppings! So, I had roasted the 2 pounds butternut squash in advance - but I will admit to having bought it precut. I folded in about 3/4 of the squash to the risotto and left the last bit to put on top. I wanted some color and to make sure this was a "one-bowl" meal so I steamed a bag of baby spinach right as I was finishing the dish and it was great on top and you could also make more and stir it in the risotto itself.
Sautéed mushrooms and spinach would also be a great topping. If you prefer to do your veggie on the side, just do a simple green salad. Spicy or bitter greens would be especially great with the sweetness of the pumpkin.
Check out my pumpkin risotto recipe here.
It's October 9th - my 37th birthday! I am celebrating like I have done almost every year since I was was 2* - with my family's ice cream cake. The best thing about this cake is that it is as fun to make as it is to eat, so you never feel bad making your own birthday cake, and it is customizable for the birthday celebrant. Kids LOVE picking out their own flavors obviously. My favorite combination is coffee, cookies n' cream and strawberry (it might seem weird but it totally works).
It is totally possible to make this cake with super-premium and/or homemade ice cream, and for that matter - gelato, frozen yogurt, sherbet, coconut ice cream, etc.; but it is more difficult to work with these types of ice cream so for the basic cake I recommend sticking with the premium stuff you can get at the grocery store. Because it has a bit lower fat content and more "overrun" (air) it is easier to work with.
So getting back to how much fun it is to MAKE this cake. You want to make it at least the night before you are planning to serve it. You can do it on your own, but making it with the whole family or having a few friends over to help gets the celebration started early. Give each person a flavor and let them create that part of the layer. And the best part is that there are always a few bites left at the bottom of the carton.
Get the recipe for my family's ice cream cake here.
*We also have a tradition of serving chocolate eclairs for first birthdays, but that is a story and recipe for another post.
I don't really like eggs, or, as I like to explain it "I don't really like eggs when the yolks and the whites are mixed together." I realize it makes me sound like a finicky toddler, but it's true (mostly). And I haven't really ever come around on eggs since I WAS a finicky toddler - like I have on olives, brussels sprouts, avocados (I know!), mesclun, raisins, and bananas.
But, I do make a few exceptions to my yolks/whites rule. I do like many frittatas, especially when their vegetable/cheese/herb content almost overwhelms the pale yellow base. And frittatas are great for make-ahead, on-the-go breakfasts, brunches, and picnics. That is why I was so excited to get introduced to this cauliflower cake via my mom's copy of Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. I made it at least ten times this summer to take to picnics, potlucks, and serve at brunch. The cauliflower is just there, in a good way, holding up the eggy, cakey batter. The herbs and onion give it all lots of flavor.
Adaptations: I only added the sesame seeds to the sides of the pan the first time I made it. It was a little fussy, and when I un-molded the cake most of them fell off. I love the idea, but love simplifying the recipe even more. I think that sesame seeds would give a good flavor mixed a bit in the batter or sprinkled on top before baking, but I don't add them anymore.
Check out the recipe here!
When we bought our house in 2010 the local food movement was gaining steam and more and more people were growing their own fruits and vegetables. The large yard in our new house had six vegetable beds that had been put in by a previous owner, but had been neglected for years before we moved in. The beds were in-ground (as opposed to raised) and though they had originally had some kind of weed control fabric under them, it had long since disintegrated.
The first year we lived there we were newly married and kid-less. I was working full-time, but managed to get the soil tested, keep on top of the weeds that sprouted up in the Spring, and get them planted for the season. We had a good variety of basics, and kept up with it fairly well. Three years in and a kid later, I was struggling to keep up with the weeds, feeling guilty that I couldn't do it all, and the beds remained dormant. A year later, when a few small raised beds opened up in the community garden across the street, I signed us up.
Now we have a small area across the street to maintain, and it is a special project for my son and I to work on. I keep the planting super simple: beets and carrots, because those are fun for kids to pull up; tomatoes, because they are pretty low maintenance but produce a lot; and kale and chard, because they are even more low maintenance but produce a lot as well. We could probably do more, but we don't need to. We do just enough to have fun and not let it become all-consuming.
And the extra-added bonus? Huge raspberry bushes line the community garden for all to pick, the nets on the blueberry bushes are just the right size for little fingers to pick through, and we get to interact with our neighbors, something that is increasingly difficult in the busy, car-centered world. We also turned the weed-filled vegetable bed into a larger lawn for our son to play on. Everybody wins!