Did you know that the night before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest nights for ordering pizza in the United States? I get why. I really do. Whether you are hosting, cooking to contribute to the big meal, or preparing to travel we all feel pretty overwhelmed on that Wednesday and so, for many of us, the last thing we want to do is think about what to make for dinner. And while I am a big fan of ordering pizza from time to time, it seems to me that with all of the indulging and overeating that is going to happen the next day, having a nutrient-packed meal the night before might actually be a good thing to help to keep our bodies (and spirits) in balance. But making a big fancy meal is not going to fly. So here’s my suggestion: super simple slow cooker chili!…
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ebbs and flows of appetite that come with the seasons. For me, during the summer I tend to not be as hungry as I am in the winter. I also tend to crave more fruits, salads, and finger foods. I have also noticed that my boys tend to give me a harder time on vegetables in the summer than they do in the other months—they seem to be constantly seeking out sweet fruits and salty snacks. My theory on that is that they are craving high water content fruits and the salt to stay hydrated.
But they still need to eat vegetables! And since I don’t want it to become a huge battle, I have been working to present vegetables in ways that they are likely to find more appealing—vegetable soups, smoothies, and vegetable chips are some of our go-tos.
As I was driving today I looked down and saw the thermometer telling me that the temperature outside was 100 degrees. Brutal.
When it is as hot as this it can be incredibly hard to motivate to cook. Afterall, who wants to stand in front of a hot stove, turn on the oven, or even be out near a grill on a day/evening like this?! So I wanted to share five of my favorite easy-to-make meals that require little-to-no cooking.
- Chef’s Salad. The thing that I love most about this meal is that it can be made up of pretty much whatever you have in the house. Start with a base of greens (lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, etc.), add chopped vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocados, etc.), add some protein(s) (cheese pieces, deli meat cut up, leftover meat cut up, tofu cubes, hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, beans, etc.), toss in any leftover cooked vegetables you have on hand, and top with your favorite dressing. Serve with some crusty bread, or even toast, and you are done!
- Gazpacho. A classic summer soup full of great vegetables. This is a fantastic version developed by my friend Aviva.
- Sandwiches. Use some fancy bread to make it feel more special, if you want. Stack on the vegetables—cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and avocados are all great additions. If you’ve got it, some pesto can be a nice change of pace. No matter what, though, there is no shame in sandwiches for dinner!
- Brazilian-style fried rice. Cooking is done in 5 minutes and you can use whatever you have knocking around in your fridge. Perfect.
- Leftovers. If you need to supplement, add a salad and dinner is done. Couldn’t be easier!
We’ll be having leftovers for dinner tonight. What about you? Any favorite summertime dinners that help to keep things cool?
I don’t know about you, but getting meals on the table during the summer can be a bit of a challenge. I always think that the summer is going to be slower and more relaxed, and in some ways it is, but then suddenly, because of that relaxation and lack of routine, it is 6pm, I’ve got starving kids, and I haven’t even started thinking about dinner yet! Panic!
That is where quick and easy dinners save the day and I have been depending a lot on quick pastas, egg dishes, and rice bowls of various sorts. These are all great, but we all need something new from time to time… or at least I do.
Enter the baked chimichanga. Now, I know that this is not even close to a traditional chimichanga, especially since they aren’t deep fried, but to be totally honest, calling them chimichangas was quite a selling point with my kids. They thought it was fun to say and if it is fun to say, then maybe it is fun to eat, and then suddenly I have two boys who are in love with a new dish to the point where one declares that he loves chimichangas more than hot dogs (true story!). So maybe I could call them baked-delicious-pockets-of-goodness, but it just doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way….
Six years ago my family joined a CSA (community supported agriculture), otherwise known as a farm share. We joined because I really wanted to take advantage of local, responsibly grown produce. Being a member of the farm share has been a truly wonderful experience—from the warm and friendly staff, to the community atmosphere amongst the members, to the access to truly seasonal fruits and vegetables!
Our CSA is sort of unique in that instead of just picking up a box of pre-selected produce, you get to pick your selections in a farm stand-type set up. When I was first starting out, this feature was nice because I was nervous about cooking with unknown vegetables, so falling back on familiar ingredients made me more comfortable. As I have become a more confident and curious cook, though, one of the things that I have really grown to enjoy is trying out a new ingredient every week (or almost every week). This season the highlights so far have been kohlrabi, tatsoi, and squash blossoms.
As I have experimented with these new ingredients over the years I have figured out five tricks to make it fun and easy:…
When I was growing up I always hated lentils. I thought they were bland and heavy and gross. And, to be totally honest, even today if someone tells me they are serving lentils I cringe just a little bit. But since discovering the joys of Dal (Indian-style lentils) and lentil pasta dishes, I have started to come around to being a fan. Here’s what I love about lentils: they are a great, cheap, and easy-to-cook source of protein. There are many different varieties, so you have to be careful you are buying the right kind, but that wide variety also means that there are lots of different things you can do with them, which is fun!
The trick with lentils, in my opinion, is that you have to help them in the flavor department. They offer a great base on which to build flavor with herbs, spices, vinegars, onions, garlic, and/or lemon, but skip that step and you are facing a big bowl of bland.
So if, like me, you are dubious about lentils or if you haven’t cooked much with them but are curious, this recipe may be a great introduction for you because it uses lots of seasonings to bring a punch and depth of flavor to your meal. Plus it is super easy to make, and fun to do with kids (they love forming the balls)….
My family has been on a BIG noodle soup kick this winter. Chicken noodle, vegetable noodle, and Asian noodle have all been on regular rotation and I am loving it! Why? Four reasons: 1) they are easy to make in 30 minutes, 2) they are cheap, 3) I can use whatever I have left in my fridge and it will turn out great, and 4) it is an easy way to get more vegetables in!…
When I was seven my parents got called into a parent-teacher conference because I was having trouble in the late mornings at school. During recess I would fight with the boys (literal kicking matches—I won a lot) and would also get frustrated during lessons when I didn’t feel like I understood. My parents couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Nothing was happening at home, I wasn’t complaining about school, why was I acting out?
Then one evening my mom heard a story on NPR about the importance of protein for brain function but also for staving off hunger and a light bulb went off in her head: I was hungry! The next morning she made sure that I had protein in my breakfast and, like magic, the problems disappeared! From then on, she was adamant that I have some sort of protein every morning.
So imagine my chagrin a couple of weeks ago when I started getting messages from my 7-year-old’s math teacher wondering why my normally helpful, engaged kid was suddenly having trouble. Had something happened at home? She asked. Were there problems with friends? We had long talks and strategy sessions with him but to no avail.
And then one morning it hit me: he was hungry. In the weeks leading up to the change he had been going through a breakfast strike where he would only eat a tiny bit of his breakfast each morning and in my attempt to respect his listening to his hunger cues, I had tried to be flexible about it. But now it was clear: the kid wasn’t eating enough….
Is anyone else overtired, stressed, or feeling sluggish? The other day as I was realizing that I was feeling really low energy and unmotivated. In theory, I was doing everything right—exercising, getting plenty of fruits and vegetables, sleeping (ok, maybe not sleeping enough, but getting some sleep)—but I was still dragging and then it came to me: greens. I wasn’t getting enough leafy greens.
Many (most) of us don’t get enough leafy greens, but they are so important. They are great for circulation and respiratory support, they boost our immune systems, and they provide a great energy boost. I hadn’t been eating them, though, because as the weather gets colder I am less drawn to smoothies and salads. So out came my sautéed and wilted green recipes to provide me some warmth, while still giving me all the benefits of the greens. And it worked! While I may not be stress-free and perky, I am definitely feeling much more alert and focused….
This post was written in honor of Food Day 2015, which is this Saturday, October 24th. What is Food Day? It is a chance for all of us to explore and celebrate healthier and more sustainable food, both with our families and with our larger communities. In other words, it is a cause that is near and dear to my heart!
For decades now people have assumed that I am a vegetarian. Maybe it is because I’m from Boulder, Colorado. Maybe it is because I am passionate about many social justice issues. I don’t know. For years, though, I felt guilty. As if I were somehow betraying my own true self. I flirted with vegetarianism, buying tons of vegetarian cookbooks and cooking primarily vegetarian meals, but it never fully stuck.
Overtime, though, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of eating any meat. I became more and more aware of the toll that conventional meat took on the environment, the animals involved, and my own body. So about 13 years ago I made the decision that from that point on I was only going to eat what I call “happy meat.” To me, “happy meat” is meat that is sustainably and humanely raised without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics. Usually, but not always, it is organic. And more often than not it involves leaner meats (i.e., poultry and fish).
When I started down this path there were a couple of things that I had to come to terms with. The first was that I basically stopped eating meat at restaurants. This was hard at first, but now when I go to a restaurant that serves “happy meat,” I am completely overwhelmed by all of the options and usually opt for a vegetarian dish. The second was that I couldn’t afford to eat much meat. The meat that I was willing to buy was (and is) more expensive, so I was forced to start thinking more carefully about how I ate meat, when I ate meat, and why I ate meat. In the end it became clear that I had to cut way down on the amount of meat I was eating. So I started learning ways to eat less, but better meat.
Since making the transition, I have developed five tips and tricks that have been helpful to me. I truly believe that in making these changes I have come to more fully enjoy and savor the meat that I do eat. So if cutting down on meat or shifting away from conventional meat towards the “happier” stuff is something you have been interested in, perhaps these tricks will inspire you to try:…