Fall

Chocolate, Dessert, Fall, Gluten Free, Snack, Winter

HONEY FUDGE

They are four and a half and almost three. My babies are potty trained, can buckle their own car seats, and clear their plates from the table. The crib will be passed to a friend next month and I’ve been donating the toys that seem, well, baby-ish. We finally went on a family vacation last month, where we all slept in one room and it was great - no one needed to sleep in the bathroom and the equipment we had to schlep along was minor. While still not easy (is it ever?), I feel like we’ve crossed some sort of parenthood threshold where I can breathe a little easier. The exhaustion scale is tipping more towards mental than completely physical as they become more little people and less baby.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Curran (4.5) is pretty emotional. High highs and low lows. Cries easily, loudly, and feels his 4-year old feels deeply. He LOVES to eat. Is not a toucher/cuddler. Thrives off quality time. A collector of gadgets and junk. He hoards his treasures in various bags, backpacks and cases, and takes them around with him everywhere… a little seasonly obsessive, like his father and my sister. Right now we’re in a police man season, so lots of walkie talkies, badges, the jacket, etc. Cleo adores him, but mark my words Curran will be the one keeping her out of trouble in high school.

She likes to pester him and scream at the top of her lungs if he tries to give her a dose of her own medicine. She LOVES cuddles and touches and passes out “I love you’s” generously. She has a will of steel. She insists on dressing herself in the clothes I like least in her closet and no matter the question, the answer is always “pink!” She has my favorite intonations and facial expressions. She is a charmer and a little bit crazy.

Both kids have beautiful blue eyes, are tall for their ages, are quirky, and look like each other, while not a spitting image of either parent. How wild it is to get to know them - to observe what makes them tick or make their eyes light up. These things are equally magical and incredibly frustrating, all in the scope of a day. I somehow feel surprised that we’re in a new phase. So much of the past few years has been head down survival, but gradually, I feel I can stop and SEE them now, instead of just keep everyone fed and alive. Does that make any sense? Obviously I’ve always been “aware” of them, but now, more so them as the people they are becoming. Anyway. It feels really special. Parenthood is pretty wild, in so many more ways than just being tired, like everyone tells you you’ll be. I feel extremely lucky to be their mom.

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Chocolate Honey Fudge

This honey fudge was from the first week of Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club and it was a raging success (shameless plug that I still think you should join because it’s been so neat to cook dinner along side people and share ideas). It is not often you can please all the dairy free, gluten free, egg free, honey eating vegans, and vegetarians all at once, but we’re working on it! Cheers, us.

As this may be the most favorited recipe I’ve ever written, I figured it needed to live here too.


RECIPE INGREDIENTS

2 ounces dark chocolate, well chopped
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch) or raw cacao, plus more for dusting
pinch of sea salt

1/3 cup honey plus 1 Tbsp. 
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup crisp rice cereal

RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate along the bottom of the pan. 

In a food processor or a strong blender, combine the almonds, cocoa powder and sea salt. Pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse sand, about 10 times. You want some crunchy bits of almonds. 

In a saucepan, combine the honey and coconut oil and bring it to a gentle boil. Stir to mix. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Add the almond mixture and the rice cereal into the wet mixture and stir to combine. Any extra add-ins would go in here. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, smooth the top and put it in the fridge to cool for at least an hour. 

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Entrée, Fall

BOWL PREP

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The crusts of a p&j. The butt of a burrito. The shards of Cleo’s egg that she ALWAYS asks for in the morning and barely eats. I hate wasting food, nor do I like making different meals at one time, so I often end up being the garbage disposal to the ends of my kids’ meals. Not dinner, but throughout the day, guilty. I went in to solve my own problem by taking my own advice. If I want to eat well through the day, I need to set myself up for success.

I have been using the same Pyrex containers for years. Maybe ten years? The glass is durable and, does not stain. I have a variety of sizes for all sorts of circumstances. So when they asked me to write a post about how I use them? No question, because it’s a product I am already using daily. When I am taking good care of myself and thinking ahead, and not wanting to eat butts of burritos, I meal prep. If I have food ready, or pieces that get me halfway towards a meal, I am much more likely to eat something well-rounded and filling than a bunch of snacks that still leave me wanting a meal.

These glass Pyrex containers have snap, air tight lids, so I can pop them in the freezer or fridge and not worry about things leaking. It keeps the food fresh longer, and also allows for an easy reheat. I can simply remove the lid and place the dish in my preheated toaster oven. You should not be putting plastic in the microwave - bad for the plastic, bad for the food, bad for you. If my leftovers are something I am not able to reheat on the stove-top, I lay a paper towel over the top and warm it in the microwave. The non-porous glass containers do not stain or smell from acidic products, are better on the environment and while they may be heavy to take on the go, it is a fair trade for how long they last and the whole fridge-to-oven reheat option.

On Sunday afternoon, I dedicated one hour to prep a few things that I knew would make for quicker meals during the week. This may look like a lot, but much of it is hands off. You layer the work. The squash roasts in the oven while you whiz up the pesto. I start the rice and lentils then shake up the vinaigrette and pull out pom seeds while they cook. My plan:

- prepared salad greens (kinds that can be eaten raw or cooked, such as kale and cabbage)

- cilantro pistachio/pepita pesto

- chili maple delicata squash (recipe below)

- pomegranate seeds

- steamed brown rice + lentil mixture

- dijon maple vinaigrette

This leaves me with two meal options that will take under 5 minutes to prepare from here: a big green salad with squash and pom seeds and nuts with the vinaigrette, or rice and lentil bowls, again with more squash, I can sauté some of the greens if I’d like, top with the pesto and then I can easily throw on a little cheese or avocado. The pasta dish that is linked for the cilantro pesto is also amazing and you are 80% of the way to that recipe with these prep pieces too! Use the delicata in place of the butternut and you just need to cook some noodles. The greens I packed are ones I like both in salads, and are not compromised when heated, so they can be either sautéed or dressed for the salad. Tender greens (like butter lettuce, spring mix, arugula) don’t keep as well for me after being washed and stored.

These prepared pieces lasted me the better part of the week for lunches and parts of dinner thanks to my Pyrex glass storage. I also started making a big batch of oats that can easily be reheated with a splash of almond milk, and these pumpkin muffins for breakfast and snack. I’m reminded that I always want to keep my fridge stocked!

This post was sponsored by Pyrex. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting me in working with brands, so that we may continue to create content for you.


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Chili Maple Delicata Squash

The beautiful thing about delicata squash is that you can eat the thin skin, so it makes prep so much faster. I cut them in half, seed them, then cut into half moons, or just into coins, and spoon away the seeds from the center circle.

2 medium delicata squash

1 Tbsp. avocado or extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp. maple syrup

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. chili powder

Preheat the oven to 425’ and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash into 1/2” half moons or rings, and remove the seeds. Place all the squash on the prepared sheet and drizzle on the oil, maple, salt and chili powder. Toss everything to coat and spread them in an even layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes until tender and browned in parts.

Remove to cool before storing.

They will keep for a week, stored in a covered container in the fridge.

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Fall, Gluten Free, Winter, Side

CREAMY BAKED BRUSSELS

He made me cry the first day I got there. I had been on crowded planes with long layovers, crossed time changes and spent the night in some run down hostel with way too much luggage to be schlepping between all modes of public transportation that take you between small Italian towns. I was tired and emotional and I run shy-ish/self-conscious in meeting new people so when George was yelling at me over how stupid it was to be a vegetarian, I cried right there at the table. 

After I graduated college, I made up my own internship of sorts to work at a Bed and Breakfast in Italy. It was run by a couple who used to own an Italian restaurant in my hometown. Lucy, the wife, had a full Italian mother but she lived most of her life in America. Lucy and George owned the place. She was a super friendly, petite, hard working, full of energy, warm and spunky woman. George was there for her. He was along for her golden years dream project and drug his feet and rolled his eyes often along the way. He was a retired surgeon; very smart and attracted to controversial conversations. He hated waste, he hated it before it was part of the green movement to hate waste, and although he scared me most of the time I lived there, I am a more careful consumer because of his staunch stance on the issue. A solid fellow, a great cook, he grew up in Argentina and must have told me three dozen times that his mother was in her late 90's and very healthy from a diet of mostly meat and potatoes. 

For some perspective to the story, I was in my early 20's, fresh off a new definition of what "healthy" meant. I had transitioned from years of eating fat free and sugar free this and that and got really into cooking and produce and working on a farm and now believed my very vegetable centered life was the answer to all things health.

So, Hugh (my super cute then-boyfriend who came with me for a month and worked mostly as a gardener) and I show up for the first time to this completely new place with all new people, super exhausted and jet-lagged and nervous. They were just sitting down to a lunch to welcome us and it was platters of cured meats, grilled bistecca, oven roasted potatoes and arugula drenched in olive oil. It didn't take long for George to notice that I wasn't eating much and he asked me why, at which point I told him I was a vegetarian. Might as well be honest if I was going to be eating all of my meals with this guy for the next 6 months. He then proceeded to berate me - intensely, angrily, loudly - on why I'd made that choice, asked me to cite my research of why it was healthy, asked if I'd spoken to doctors, listed all the nutritional values of the meal he'd prepared and I'm pretty certain he was standing up and pacing by the time I couldn't hold it in anymore and the tears started coming. I had said nothing in response. Hugh was squeezing my leg but he was in no place to defend me because I'm not sure I honestly had answers to his questions. I came to learn this was par for his course, but couldn't help how personally I took it seeing it was the first time I met the guy. Poor first impressions on both ends I suppose. We had a few more chats about it, he eventually added a few meals to the rotation without meat and let me make the salads. I grew a soft spot for George over time, more clearly seeing how he still craved the authority and leadership he had as a doctor and now was in a circumstance he didn't exactly care for. I think they call that displaced anger. That memory was from a decade ago now, but it popped back in my mind amidst the reel of New Years diets having their spotlight season. Vegan, keto, whole 30, non-dairy, paleo... so many perspectives and so many people looking for the answer with a capital "A." I've come to think healthy can mean different things for different people and it's absolutely ok for those definitions to change over time.
 
If I kept in touch with George, I'd tell him I don't really have a name for how I eat and I'm super ok with that. It's mostly from scratch, heavy on the vegetables. I eat eggs, a small amount of animal protein when I need it or want it. I try to limit dairy because I have finicky skin and it's supposed to help overall inflammation and also because I actually like almond milks and coconut coffee creamers. I make most of our baked goods with almond flour or other whole grain flours but we eat classic pizza dough in between so I figure I've got to be breaking even. And yes! I do consult doctors, my blood work is near perfect. I'm loosing a ton of hair but hey, can't win them all. If I was at your lunch table today, I'd eat whatever you were making because I understand how as the host and cook, you just want people to enjoy what you worked hard to serve them. Sorry I didn't understand that then. I won't forget your hospitality, spicy as it was. Big hugs. 

It's a new year, hooray, resolve to take good care of yourself. Eat more food from plants than packages and I think you'll be heading in the right direction. Long term changes over short-lived diets, and if cream fits into your January plan, these brussels are so easy and Hugh made you a sweet little video for a visual this week for a change of pace. 

CREAMY BAKED BRUSSELS // Serves 4

These work as a warm side, smashed into toast or tossed with your favorite noodles with a splash of pasta water and a bit of fresh citrus juice to make an easy meal of it. 

1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. dijon mustard
dollop of creme fraiche (optional)
1/2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350' and grease a shallow, ovenproof baking dish. Steam the brussels for 4 minutes, drain and let them cool to the touch. While the brussels steam, mix together the cream, dijon, creme fraiche if using, salt and pepper. 
Chop up the sprouts, use a food processor if you prefer but I'd rather not clean another appliance. Tip them into the prepared dish and pour the cream mixture over the top. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top and bake them for 15 minutes, turning the broiler on for an extra minute or two at the end to brown the top. Garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy warm.



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