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!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Breakfast Quinoa

I’m plugging right along on the health challenge, and it’s getting both easier and harder in ways.  Adding gluten-free grains and lean meats solved my problem with consuming enough calories for breastfeeding, and it’s helping a little with the monotony as well.

In my quest to break up the repetition, I discovered quite a few breakfast quinoa recipes, and there are varieties all over the internet.  The version I ended up trying was a welcome break from my smoothies.  Filling and warm and tasty.

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Breakfast Quinoa

  • Boil one cup of almond milk
  • Add 1/2 cup of quinoa
  • Return to boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Add teaspoon of sucanat (could use brown sugar), dash of cinnamon,  and a handful of raisins
  • Cook for 10 minutes longer
  • DONE

I did add a splash (maybe 1/4 cup?) of water in the last 5 minutes to make it a bit looser and less gritty, and I decided to throw some coconut on top.  This is a flexible idea that you can adapt to anything.  I’m thinking maple syrup and pecans would be great, too.  Endless possibilities!  Quinoa serves up a lot of protein and makes a filling breakfast.  I never would have thought to serve it as anything other than a savory side dish if it weren’t for my whole detox plan.  If nothing else, I love that this is showing me a few new ideas to add to my usual rotation.

For the most part, I have stuck to my pledge.  I think the teaspoon of sucanat is against the rules technically.  And of course, I am still hanging on to my morning coffee.  But I’ve been truly dairy-free for five whole days, and that’s miraculous for this cheese fiend.  Ha!

Days 4-5

Breakfasts: oat flour banana pancakes, breakfast quinoa

Lunches: leftover broccoli soup (That recipe made a ton!), my favorite tuna salad over lettuce

Dinners: Grilled chicken with roasted cauliflower and asparagus, chicken with rice

Snacks: smoothies, apples with cashew butter

Cashew butter has been another blessed discovery with this plan.  Where has it been all my life!?

Raw Broccoli Salad

I’ve intended to write here the last week or more, and I’ve had a hard time sitting down to do it.  We are having some work done before we put the house on the market, and while I am grateful for the contractors and their hard work, I am SO READY to not have strangers at my house all day every day.  I mean I know that selling the house means a lot of traffic as well, but at least it’s scattered a bit and I get a little notice.  As it is now, I’ve had people here for the past nine days, not including Sunday, I guess.

I’m posting a recipe that has been useful to me this week.  It’s adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, and it’s a favorite for me.  The best part is that it keeps in the fridge for a while, so you can have it available when your kitchen is completely inaccessible as mine was for part of last week!  (Or of course, if you are busy and just want a quick snack or a side to a sandwich.)

I wish I’d photographed it before I ate it, but I didn’t.  No real pictures to share this week really.  Except this jewel.

Remodeling

Yep, that’s a toilet on my porch.  Ah, renovations.  It’s been an adventure and an annoyance.  Without further rambling, here’s the recipe.  It takes about ten minutes to throw together, and I keep it in the fridge for three or four days.

Broccoli Salad with Garlic and Sesame

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, cut into bite-size florets

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours. Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

back on the train

Two weeks ago was Disney World.  Then we come home to have Jude’s birthday a few days later.  Then his little preschool class celebrated his day on the 18th.  Then we had a Mickey-themed birthday party at our house on the 20th.  Then yesterday we spent time at a fall carnival at the local elementary school.

First cotton candy!

To say we haven’t been healthy eaters lately is such an understatement.  And I think I hadn’t realized how far I’d gone on the real-food-and-crunchy-healthy-eating spectrum until we spent a week at a theme park followed by a week of indulgent celebrations at home.  Oh, my unhappy body.

 

And in my opinion, it is no coincidence that Jude has had a random 24-hour fever, a tummy bug, AND a head cold in the past month or so.  Preschool germs are relentless, I know.  But eating junk can’t help that situation.  Throw in a little development spurt and the related sleep regression for Norah, and I am feeling worn and tired and just not up to par at all.  I’m so ready for a little return to normalcy.  [But then soon Halloween… and then Thanksgiving and then Christmas….so normal is not really that normal this time of year, is it?]

 

Anyway, I haven’t posted on food in a while, so I thought I’d share our dinner plan this week in my attempt to get us back on track.

Sunday – grilled tilapia, quinoa salad, roasted broccoli

Monday – Honey-Curry Chicken and brown rice

Tuesday – Butternut Squash Lasagna (my absolute favorite fall dish)

Wednesday – Husband has a work thing, and the lasagna makes great leftovers, so that’s probably the plan.

Thursday – homemade whole wheat pizza with proscuitto and red onions

Friday – My carpet is being cleaned at 2pm, so I’m thinking we’ll head out since I need to keep little feet off of it until it dries.  Maybe Indian food, I’m hoping?

Saturday – I’m hosting a bridal shower for my cousin, so more busy times and a leftover petit fours to tempt us. I think I’ll rely on something from my freezer to help me out that night.  Maybe baked ziti?

 

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Anything good in your kitchen plans this week?

Freezing Food for Newborn Days

Yesterday a friend of mine was asking how my husband was doing and if he was excited about the new baby.  I explained that I think he’s the one nesting lately, not me.   He’s cleaning and organizing and replacing things around here that needed to be replaced for a long time.  It’s probably in part because he remembers how hazy and busy that first month with a new baby can be, and he knows home improvement won’t happen for a long time.

I wish I could get the cleaning bug as part of my last month of pregnancy hormonal fluctuations.  I know for most people “nesting” is a phenomenon that has them rewashing baby clothes and organizing some long-forgotten bathroom cabinet or something.  So far, I cannot seem to get motivated in that regard.  In fact, I am ashamed to tell you that the nursery is not quite complete yet.  Close, but not done.  (Which is extra funny considering I think my son had clean sheets on his bed at 26 weeks gestation.)  I am 35 going on 36 weeks, and I need a push to finish these sorts of things.

But the one area where I think my nesting instincts are taking hold is my kitchen.  I’ve written before about the glory of freezer cooking and how it helps a busy weeknight come together or a sleepy morning go more smoothly.  I didn’t discover this until my son was about 9 months old, but it would have been so helpful in those early days.  This time I have another mouth to feed, of course.  And I know Jude’s world will feel really different no matter what I do, but I like the idea that he can still sit down at the same table with the same parents during the first few weeks of this transition.

I’ve mostly used Once a Month Mom as my resource for recipes and ideas, and I wanted to link them here as well.  I’m trying to do a good mix of dairy-free and regular recipes in light of a lot of newborn’s sensitivities to dairy in the early weeks.  I was lucky with my son that I could eat anything at all and he was never bothered, but you never know, so I wanted to be at least somewhat prepared for that possibility and not have a freezer full of food I couldn’t eat.  Once a Month Mom now has a dairy and gluten free menu every month, and while I don’t care to limit gluten, I used that menu to get some dairy-free ideas since 99% of my freezer recipes involve cheese, cream, or milk.   So far, I have managed to cook and freeze the following:

Breakfast: Chocolate-Strawberry Scones, Dairy-Free Carrot Raisin Muffins, and Sausage Balls.  Still on the agenda: Berry Baked French Toast and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Muffins.  We are big egg-eaters around here, so if I pair an egg with just one muffin or scone, that’s enough.  We should have breakfast taken care of for at least 3 weeks on my calculations, I think.

Lunch: Dairy Free BBQ Beef Sandwiches and Whole Wheat Rolls, Pita Pizzas.  Still on the agenda: Dairy-Free Chicken Taquitos, and “Tacos in a Sleeping Bag.”  (My kid LOVES those!)

Dinner: Dairy-Free Cajun Chicken ready for the grill, Tex-Mex Ravioli Casserole.  Still on the agenda: Chicken Divan, Baked Ziti, Dairy-Free Slow Cooker Greek Chicken, Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Artichokes, Slow Cooker Chicken and Mushrooms

A few extras like mashed potatoes for a quick side dish and a couple of rounds of pizza dough should help, too.  I also hit up the frozen foods aisle at Trader Joe’s for a few favorites, which for us means Crispy Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, Chicken Tacos, and Croissants.

We have a small chest freezer in the basement, so most of it is stored down there – mainly so I won’t be tempted to dive in to it before the baby arrives.   I just used old paper grocery bags and labeled them for various meals to make things more simple.

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Most of the dinner entrees really won’t fit in the dinner bag, so they will be stacked beside it instead.  Still though, walking downstairs to get food and throwing it in the microwave, the oven, or the Crockpot is ten times easier than making something from scratch, and I’m excited to reap the rewards next month.  On the whole, it’s taken far less time than one would think since I typically just double something we are eating tonight and freeze a portion.  I’ve used Jude’s nap time to cook and freeze as well which is always helpful with an hour or two alone.

I am a little lost on the dairy-free menu, so any suggestions on things of that variety that freeze well would be greatly appreciated.  Send them my way!