Thai Vegetable Soup

I can’t believe it has been well over a year since I last posted a recipe here. This blog’s content has changed so much over the past 5 years, and it’s revealing to look back and see that. But while I have been distracted with big things and heavy questions and major life changes, I have still been cooking as much as ever.

It’s important to me – as you know if you’ve been reading here for a while – that my family stays healthy and makes good choices at the table as often as we can. And I’m also seeing that there can be so much comfort found in the kitchen. A warmth and familiarity that is really helpful when other things can feel out of our control.

That said, I also have realistic expectations. I am the only adult in my house with two little kids, one large dog, a million tasks and activities to tend to, and a full time job that I love and want to do well. If it takes longer than 30 minutes to cook, it’s not going to happen on a weeknight.  (On that subject, we are out of the house from 7:30am until 6pm on Wednesdays, and I’d love it if you post your favorite crockpot recipes in the comments. I need ideas!)

The weather is soon changing from summer to fall, and you can sometimes feel it even here in the Atlanta heat. I’m ready.  Both Jude and Norah came down with a little mystery fever at the end of last week, and it has extended to me. (Thanks, kindergarten germs!) There’s nothing like soup when you feel under the weather, and both kids love this and gobbled it up last weekend. I’ve enjoyed leftovers for the past two days at lunch as well. It’s loosely inspired by a recipe my friend Laura passed on to me as Whole 30 compliant when I completed Whole 30 last year, but I have modified it a lot to suit our tastes, and it has become a favorite of ours.  It’s one of those clean-out-the-fridge recipes, and it always turns out just a little different than the last time I made it, but it’s always reliably good. I’m convinced that the combination of garlic, coconut oil, homemade chicken broth, and 5 veggies can fix almost anything.

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Thai Vegetable Soup

  • 5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • dash of dried ginger
  • spoonful of coconut oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 sliced red bell pepper (I often leave this out if I don’t have it handy.)
  • handful of chopped or shredded carrots
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 chicken breast (or 1 cup of previously cooked shredded chicken)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth (Homemade is best.)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2-3 cups of chopped greens (bok choy or swiss chard is my usual choice)

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Add the coconut oil to a skillet, and then saute the onion and garlic. Add carrots, mushrooms, red pepper, and ginger.

If your chicken is not yet cooked, boil broth separately and cook chicken breast while veggies are sauteing.  Remove chicken, shred, and set it aside.

Combine broth and coconut milk in a pot and add your cooked veggies. Stir. Add shredded chicken. Let it simmer for 10 minutes or so. Lastly, add chopped greens and cook another 10 minutes.

Serve hot and save the leftovers! It reheats well.  (I’ve also doubled this and frozen it, and I portion it in quart ziplock bags for a great lunch option straight from your freezer.)

 

 

*** As a side note, two of these ingredients are already in my freezer. About once a month, I use the method detailed here to cook a whole chicken in the crockpot. I then freeze shredded chicken to have on hand for tacos, casseroles, soups, salad toppers, etc. And I make bone broth the following day to freeze as well.  Freezer options get dinner on the table during busy weeknights!

 

 

 

 

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summer harvest

Last weekend, we went early on Saturday morning to a local blueberry farm, and I planned to arrive at 9am to avoid the hot Georgia sun.  We arrived at 9:15, and it was already hot, but that’s the way it goes this time of year. And after a lifetime in Georgia, I’ve learned to embrace it.

 

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The bushes were tall and tangled, and every now and then you could find some shade. The kids wandered in and out of them trying to find the darkest berries.

They both took the task pretty seriously, only choosing the best ones and getting excited when they found a surprise blackberry or two hidden among the blueberries.

When we pick apples or strawberries, it only takes us a few minutes to get more than we can easily consume just the three of us. But tiny blueberries are a hard-won prize. We can pick and pick and still only have little to show for it. Especially when Norah crouches low to hide and eat them rather than take them home to share.

She then found the irrigation sprinkler and decided to go for a run to cool off, and who could blame her?  July in Georgia is no joke.

I love this time of year for so many reasons, but July and August at a roadside produce stand is enough of a reward to pay for any amount of heat or discomfort. Our plates are colorful and vibrant, and I always think about how much I’ll miss these tastes and smells — sun-ripened tomatoes, sweet corn, mellow peaches — when winter hits and soup loses its luster.

We’ve been playing around with a little backyard gardening as well. I’ve frozen so much pesto from my over-producing basil and will do another round this week. And we’re trying our hand at beans for the first time this year. A tiny effort for a tiny patio for a tiny family, but it feels good to let both kids have a hand in what makes it to the table and understand the idea of seasons and growth and where food comes from.

Beans!

And, of course, I can’t neglect to mention my grandparents’ amazing garden only a half-hour away which they share with the rest of us. I’ve got big plans to freeze gallons of this squash soup tomorrow for us to enjoy this fall and winter.

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The kids are mostly with their dad this week, but I had them for a few hours today, and I was disappointed to find dozens of worms on my bean leaves.  (The perils of organic gardening, I guess!)  But Jude and Norah were fascinated, of course – placing them in a vented mason jar with leaves to keep them fed and happy.

There was a time when I would have focused on the inconvenience of a garden pest and the potential it holds to ruin the beans I’m spending effort tending to. A time when I would have been too distracted by the sweltering heat to enjoy picking berries.  Disheartened by “the small irritations like salt on melon” as Linda Pastan says in that poem I love so dearly.

But the upheaval of my previous year, among many other things, put these annoyances in clearer perspective for me.  It’s never perfect. None of it is seamless.  But these things come so seldom, and I’ll miss it if I’m not paying attention because I’m distracted by discomfort or reminders of what could have been. This is now – tomatoes, berries, sweet corn, cold cucumbers, fresh beans, bright basil. It only lasts a moment before time moves us to another season.

 

Whole Wheat Blueberry Biscuits

I’ve been baking a little this summer, but not too much.  It’s hot outside, and the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen baking bread when there is so much great produce everywhere you look.  I got a huge crate of blueberries from Costco though, and this recipe was calling my name.

 

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My grandmother used to always make blueberry biscuits for my cousins and me when we were kids.  Hers are white and fluffy and more delicious than I can describe.  As I’ve become used to whole grain breads, my tastes have changed, and I don’t crave white flour anymore (with the exception of tomato sandwiches which are an excuseable sin on whole wheat bread).   If I’m being honest, my grandmother’s blueberry biscuits are better in that light and fluffy way, but my whole wheat remodel of this old recipe came out pretty good in a different fashion.  They are filling and delicious, and my favorite thing about milling my own wheat is that it has a real taste – not just fluff.  Store-bought whole wheat flour can’t quite match it, but they will still be good.

We’ve made these twice in the last week, so I’m writing the recipe here for me to come back to … and to share with you, too!

 

Whole Wheat Blueberry Biscuits

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (freshly milled if you can)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter (half a stick)

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup blueberries

1 tablespoon sugar

Sprinkle sugar over the blueberries, and let them sit.  Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Use a box grater to grate the butter into the flour, and then lightly stir so that it is crumbly.  Gradually add the milk, and then add the blueberries.  Stir lightly.

Roll out onto a clean, floured surface – trying not to squish the berries.  Cut biscuits with a glass and arrange in a pan.

Bake at 475 degrees for about 15 minutes if they are closely arranged like the photo above.  Cook for only 10 minutes if they are spread out on a cookie sheet.

 

**If you really want to top these with something even better, mix 1/4 cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of milk to create a glaze for the top.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

on health

It was one of my birthday goals this year to begin exercising again on a somewhat regular basis.  I was fanatical about walking on a treadmill at least 3 times a week during my last pregnancy, but the second Norah came out, it was no longer a priority.  I manage to lose baby weight without effort (although it happens very slowly over the course of the first year), so this goal is not so much about the way I look as it is about the way I feel.

 

We have two different gyms less than two miles from our house.  It is so easy to get there and back that I’m wondering why I’ve waited so long on this.  There’s a childcare room that the kids LOVE, and they can play together and keep up with each other which makes it zero stress or guilt on my part.  They play with toys and work on art projects for 45 minutes while I put in some steps on an elliptical and complete a few light weights.  It’s so simple, but I know the school year will leave less time for things like this.  Still though, if I can even make it twice a week during the school year, it’s a vast improvement over nothing.  I’m amazed at how much better I am sleeping in these past couple of weeks with exercise a frequent part of my routine now.

 

Health is such a focus in our current society, and while I am grateful for that and the time I live in, I sometimes wonder if we obsess too much and worry over things we shouldn’t.  Scott and I completed a Whole 30 a few days before we left for Mexico.  I didn’t mention it here because I was honestly afraid I’d fail and not complete it, so I didn’t want to announce it.  It is INTENSE.  Scott was fully invested, so I did it in solidarity, but I am the first to admit that I loosened the rules a little a couple of times (mmmm, black beans), but on the whole, I was 95% compliant which felt like an accomplishment to me.  Many people do this program to discover food intolerances, but I really just wanted to reset my taste buds, so to speak, and be more mindful in my approach to food.  The rules are essentially no sugar in any form, no dairy, no alcohol, no white potatoes, no beans and legumes, no grains of any kind, no soy.  So we pretty much ate only meat, vegetables, nuts, and fruit for 30 days.

 

I discovered that I genuinely feel better when I have a few whole grains in my diet.  (Sorry, Paleo people. It’s true for me!)  But I also feel better when I limit store-bought grains, dairy, beer and sugar (weep!).  On top of that, I promise I lost 2 inches in my waist (I measured) in the first 5 days.  I wasn’t going hungry, and I logged my calories to see no change from my usual intake, so I know it was just bloating and inflammation that disappeared.  Still pretty amazing though, even though size was not a motivating factor.

But of course, here I am a few weeks later, and I am not following those rules anymore.  It was an interesting exercise, but I feel like I eat healthy enough regardless and decided to try and hold onto a couple of “rules” a little and ditch the rest.  I recently heard the term orthorexia used to describe modern eating, and I think there is a valid argument there.  I spent 30 days obsessing over most everything I put in my mouth or prepared in my kitchen.  I could never live that way – nor do I think it is healthy.

 

Food documentaries opened my eyes about 4 years ago, and I did a complete overhaul of how we eat. I’m grateful for such a focus on clean eating everywhere you look.  But now I feel like we are good enough.  Eat real food, pile on the veggies, limit sugar, and enjoy your meals.  Those are pretty much my personal rules right now.  And if I supplement that plan with an occasional doughnut stop, that’s okay too.
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I want my kids to see me making an effort in diet and exercise, but I don’t want them to obsess about it – the same way I intend to teach my daughter to wear sunscreen and take care of her skin in order to avoid wrinkles, but also know that they are going to happen anyway.  Time changes our faces and our bodies.  My decisions to make steps toward better health are motivated by my desire to feel good and look decent as I age.  But age happens anyway.  So does birthday cake, warm queso, cold beer, and all kinds of other things that aren’t the healthiest.  So here’s to doing the best we can and not obsessing about the rest, to priorities and enjoying our food, to being our best selves by balancing all the advice with the desire to loosen our pants and live a little.

 

Do you have “food rules” of any kind? How do you approach balance with diet and exercise, especially if you have a little one to feed as well?  I am always interested to hear what others have to say about this.

Terriyaki Salmon with Zoodles

We are really enjoying the spiralizer I posted about earlier.  I am not completely on board with Paleo diets considering my whole grain obsession, but I do love that this little gadget gets some extra vegetables in our diet.  The kids love slurping the “noodles,” and Jude especially loves when I leave the pieces super long after running the zucchini through the spiralizer.

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This recipe is loosely inspired by one I found here.  I just changed it a bit to suit our preferences, and I simplified the prep a little.

 

Before you begin, mix the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

 

Now get out your other ingredients:

  • 2-3 smallish salmon fillets (Our kids usually split one.)
  • 1 cup broccoli (fresh or frozen is fine, just cook longer if frozen)
  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 spiralized zucchini

 

 

Next I added a little oil to a large skillet and threw in my frozen broccoli.  Cook until the broccoli is warm (5-8 minutes or so) and add your sliced red onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  Continue stirring and cook until the onion is soft (another 5 minutes or so).

While all of that is getting started, place your salmon fillets in a separate lightly oiled skillet.  Spoon out about a tablespoon of your sauce on each salmon fillet.  Cook a few minutes, flip, and repeat the spoonful of sauce on the second side.  I do about 4 minutes per side to get mine pretty fully cooked.  But you could do 2-3 minutes for something a little closer to rare or seared salmon.

Once the salmon is cooked, I turn off the stove and let it sit in the pan.  Next add your zucchini “noodles” to the other veggies and stir it all up to mix it together and get the zucchini warm.  Pour what is left of the sauce onto the veggies and noodles.  It only takes about 3-4 minutes to cook the zucchini because it is so thin.

That’s it! Plate it up and you’re done. I snapped the photo above very quickly with my iPhone because it was a Monday and I had tired and hungry kids at the table.  The whole meal is done in 20 minutes or so – perfect for a weeknight!

 

 

zoodles!!

Did you know this little gadget can do fun things like make curly fries and vegetable noodles?

I found it for $28 last week on sale and jumped on it.  I’m on a moms’ message board I don’t check as often as I used to, but I always make time to look at the recipe section, and so many people raved about spiralizers, I decided to give it a try.  We made zucchini noodles tonight, and the kids ate them up!  So good.  It’s such a handy way to get in more veggies.  I’m hoping to do homemade sweet potato curly fries this week in my oven.  I know all of you Paleo people would use it to replace wheat noodles, but for me, the main motivation is just getting in another serving of veggies and giving some fresh ideas to my stale meal planning.

Jude loved turning the handle to create the “noodles” or zoodles as we called them.  Because it was our first try with this, I dumped marinara on top like usual spaghetti to appeal to the familiar.  (And they take 3 minutes to cook in a skillet, much faster than pasta.) We might branch out to other veggies soon.  Like this recipe, or this one, or this one.

spiralizing!!

Just passing along the recommendation.  Wild Saturday night here with veggie pasta and a blog update! Ha.  Happy weekend.

2013 – Looking Back

I am a sucker for year-end posts and reflections, and what a year it’s been.  I know that is the trite thing to say when December closes, but really this has been quite a year for me.  So many changes.  We moved to a new home, and I started working again, and our day-to-day lives are so different because of those decisions.  And of course my kids are at those ages where they grow and change with each passing week.  It’s amazing and terrifying all at once.

I’ve loved watching milestones happen with that same happy-sad feeling that comes with motherhood.

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There have been exciting trips and special occasions.

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But they were punctuated by those everyday moments which are just as sweet.

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Everyday exploring and regular life-living can feel mundane in the moment itself, but not so much as we look back.

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Cuddle buddies

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So many prayers and hopes for the new year. Health and growth for my family. Personal growth, too. But more gratitude and contentment above all else, I think.

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“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” – Walt Whitman

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