Meatless Monday – Cherry Berry Banana Green Smoothie

A few months ago I read that a shot of cherry juice before bed could help with insomnia. So when I saw cherry juice on sale at Costco, I added it to the cart. But we’re tired and forget to a) drink it and b) make anything resembling scientific study when we happen to remember to drink it.

And now it is officially spring! Even though there’s still a chilly bite to the morning air, I have returned to my most-days green smoothie routine, in part prompted by the presence of cherry juice in the fridge.

As already noted, I am not scientifically inclined, aka, imprecise. I have tried to measure, but really, I throw ingredients in the blender until they “look right.” Be warned: you may want to experiment yourself for the exact ratios, if exact ratios are your thing.

Another tip: red cherries/berries + green spinach = interesting color. Pour your smoothie into a colored cup with a lid and enjoy it through a straw. Now you’re ready to take it on the go and no one (including you) will be distracted by your otherwise delicious drink.

Cherry Berry Banana Green Smoothie
Serves 1

1/2 c frozen cherries
4-6 large frozen strawberries (add to cherries and you should have just under 1 c fruit)
1/2 frozen banana
1 large handful spinach (approx 1 c packed)
1/4 c cherry juice
fresh ginger (about the size of the first digit of your pinky finger)
water, as necessary to blend

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Keep adding water a little at a time until you have good blending consistency.

No idea if the cherry juice at bedtime has helped us sleep better. But I can attest to a cherry smoothie helping to jump start my morning!

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Meatless Monday – Tomato Soup

I was in a funk. The kiddo was sick and the day’s plans dashed. After walking the dogs, I decided to cook the rest of the day away. I created some lovely food, and the acts of creating and serving those I love helped lift the gray clouds from my atmosphere.

C19 had called from college to report that his girlfriend was home from college, sick. Apparently, tomato soup is her favorite, and he promised I would make some for her. Easy enough.

After school this afternoon, Q13 opened the fridge and started hollering, sure that I had delivered away all of the soup. Nah, of course I made extra, and it’s our dinner tonight. Tomorrow we will dive in to the vegan veggie-happy lasagna I also made, and maybe eventually I’ll share here that recipe as well.

C19 called today to say thank you, that GF had eaten soup for dinner last night and lunch today, that it was warm and comforting and perfect. He confessed: he thought I had opened a box of grocery store soup. They had no idea it was real, home-made soup. Which Q13 tells me I should consider a compliment, that the soup was so good it could have come from a box. Silly kids! It’s better than a box, and just about that easy.

Tomato Soup
Makes 6 servings

3 Tbsp non-dairy butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Coarse salt & ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp tomato paste
4 14.5 oz cans tomatoes (do not drain)
4 c veggie broth
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or no-salt herb/veggie seasoning)
½ Tbsp dried basil
½ Tbsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
Optional: 1 c cooked brown rice

In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add oil and onion, season w/ salt and pepper. After 3 minutes, add garlic. Cook until onion is translucent, about 2 more minutes. Stir in flour and tomato paste, cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes in their liquid, broth, vinegar and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender) to puree. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Stir in rice before serving, if using.

This recipe is something of a blank canvas. The variations all depend on your taste buds!
Roast tomatoes, garlic and even diced bell peppers and use in place of one or more cans of tomatoes.
Use cans of whole peeled, diced, stewed or fire roasted tomatoes with whatever seasonings float your boat.
Swap out the vinegar for red wine.
Use fresh herbs instead of dried.

 

Meatless Monday – Arugula-Lemon Pesto (vegan)

Light years ago (it seems), C19 did a science fair project that involved growing basil plants. We love basil–pizza or pasta margherita, bruschetta, pesto… Oh my seriously summer-loving YUM! We discovered (science fair whatever, though I do recall Kiddo got whatever credit/grade he needed) that basil grew well, during summer, in the planter on the side of the house facing the backyard. Goody on us!

I have been missing basil, missing pesto, because…January. Too cold.

Friends gave us the most incredible gift, a Tower Garden, at summer’s end. It had basil, for a time, until the weather turned. It also had romaine, which we ate nightly until it also passed. Now, arugula and mint proliferate.

Girlfriends came over this weekend. One mentioned having made an arugula-lemon hummus. I requested the recipe. Later, we moved to the deck where she noticed my arugula-laden Tower Garden and my small but heavy potted lemon tree. Clearly, I need that recipe! And yet…

Guy awoke in the middle of the night, feverish. He moved to another bed, and has lolled about throughout the day. His dinner tonight: ramen. It takes only minutes and it’s our go-to sick day comfort food.

Q13 and I wanted something just a little…more. I suggested arugula-lemon pesto pasta and he jumped at it. He’s at that age where he’s wanting to learn to cook (and wanting breaks from homework). So…

He cranked the tunes on his portable speaker. We harvested and washed arugula. We tossed ingredients in the Cuisinart, blended and tasted and adjusted, dancing all the while I made notes to capture what we were doing as we loosely followed other recipes.

We cooked the pasta (dance). We tasted the pesto (dance). We added pesto to pasta and fresh tomato to garnish and (DANCE) oh my. We high-fived over our newly created recipe.

Remarkably, since Q13 doesn’t love arugula in a salad. Too peppery. But he loves this!

C19 took the middle school Foods class twice because he enjoyed it so much. They no longer offer it, so I am Q13’s foods teacher. I don’t mind. We’re having fun and making memories. Love!

Arugula-Lemon Pesto

½ c toasted pine nuts (or combination – pine & walnuts)
2 c packed arugula leaves
3 cloves peeled garlic
½ lemon, zested
2 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or no-salt herb/spice mix)
½ tsp red chili pepper
1 ½ lemons, juiced (start with ½, and add as needed)
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp water
4 drops Tapatio (hot sauce)
Cooked whole wheat pasta of choice
Chopped fresh tomatoes, to garnish cooked pasta

Lightly dry-toast nuts in a pan over medium heat just until fragrant. (Oh, the fragrance!)

In a food processor, combine arugula, toasted nuts, garlic, lemon zest, spices and juice of a half lemon. Pulse to combine.

While processor runs, slowly drizzle in olive oil, stopping to scrape sides as needed. Follow with water. When pesto has achieved desired consistency (add additional lemon juice and/or seasonings) add a few drops of hot sauce.

The kiddo and I suggest you cook some whole wheat pasta while you’re making this mess, because it will taste amazing when you throw it all together. We cooked a combo of rotini and penne because that’s what we had. Top with some fresh tomato for good, yummy, fun!

Meatless Monday – Potato Enchilada Pie

Hello from my kitchen!

In the end-of-school-year craziness, I haven’t been cooking as much. Way more take-out than usual, which is fine and tasty and fun but not as budget- or waistline-friendly, though, as always, lots and lots and lots of grace for whatever season we (you!) are in.

Last week, however, I found a few pockets of time to make special food to make that last school week, well, special. I made fruit tarts, one with apples and another with nectarines, both topped with peach jam infused with lemon zest and juice and fresh chopped ginger… Oh my! I made banana muffins. I made pancakes with berry sauce. Hmm, it sure looks like my go-to treats are breakfast-snacky, and carb-y, huh? They’re also all long gone.

Yesterday, I got back to dinner. To make a big pot of enchilada sauce (find the recipe here) I first mixed up a batch of chili powder from the spices in my drawer! I’ve regularly had a store-bought blend but had run out. So I googled it, and as it turns out, chili powder consists of more than just ground chilis: cumin, garlic and onion powder, paprika, oregano. Honestly, I’d rather use the spices I already buy to create blends than buy pre-made versions. That way I’ll use up my spices within their best-taste window and have fresher, tastier blends. Another time I might try a recipe that starts with dried chilis, but for now this was easy.

Once the enchilada sauce was simmering, I got to work on Potato Enchilada Pie. The origin for this recipe came from Forks Over Knives. Living in California, we eat a lot of Mexican food. Before I leaned plant-based, I regularly made enchiladas, but even when I loaded them up with veggies they still contained cheese. Without resorting to soy-cheese I despaired of finding a recipe as satisfying. This one does the trick!

I’ve modified the recipe to make it easier and to add black beans. You could also add other veggies, like corn or bell peppers, but in this case I think simple might be best.

Easy Chili Powder Blend

4 Tbsp paprika
4 tsp oregano
2 1/2 tsp cumin
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Add all spices to a small bowl and mix them. Store in a clean and dried spice bottle for up to six months.

Potato Enchilada Pie
Serves 6

3-4 large potatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c fresh spinach, chopped
1 recipe Enchilada Sauce
3 whole wheat tortillas
garnish: cilantro, green onions, diced avocado (optional)

Boil the potatoes for 5-7 minutes until almost fork-tender.

In a large pan, saute onions for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and saute for two more minutes. Add jalapenos and cook for one minute. Add chili powder, beans, and cooked potatoes and mix well. Add spinach and cook for one minute.

Preheat oven to 350. Add sauce to bottom of a pie pan to cover. Top with one tortilla; cover with half the filling. Drizzle with more sauce. Repeat layers: tortilla, filling, sauce, tortilla, and sauce to cover. Bake for 25 minutes. Dress with desired garnishes and slice into wedges.

One of the reasons I love making this recipe is that I have multiple dinners built in: I will use the extra enchilada sauce later in the week to make another of our favorites: Tofu Chilaquiles.

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Meatless Monday – Lentil Soup

The fickle spring weather turned chilly again just as half our family returned from a house building week in Mexico, overtired and weezy from dust. I decided a hearty pot of lentil soup might do the trick: warm and comforting, restorative in the best ways.

Ten years ago I couldn’t tell you if I had ever eaten a lentil. A new friend brought over a package of lentils as a salad additive and I looked at them as if she’d handed me a seed packet; they might do something great, but I have No Idea what to do with them…

These days lentils are one of my go-to ingredients. They’re easy, yummy, eat them simply or add them to almost whatever. Inexpensive and healthy to boot.

But there are lentil soups and more lentil soups. I’ve made many and they’re good, fine, meh. I needed a better-than-the-rest lentil soup to clear away the fog and funk. I read several recipes, improved on the base of one with additives from others, and I think I’ve got it.

It began with this recipe. I’d bought celery special–I wanted, expected, celery in my lentil soup. Onion, carrot, celery: the essentials, right? Add lentils, veggie broth, some spices, and you’re right on track.

So I checked other recipes, compared ratios, and added celery. I omitted the oil and salt, because why add them? The canned tomatoes and veggie broth add enough salt to flavor. Then I found a perfect zucchini in the crisper. Why not add zucchini to a lentil soup? Maybe that’s a little ‘minestrone’ of me, but I tell you, it worked. And if I hadn’t had a zucchini, I would have added a drained and rinsed can of garbanzo beans. More veggie goodness = great!

And then I oops-ed by confusing curry powder with ground cumin, almost the same color. The ratios were meant to be two teaspoons of one and one of the other, but I did two of the wrong one…and found out it wasn’t wrong. To the contrary, it was just more right.

A couple of weeks ago, Tween and I were watching a cooking show. Of course they were preparing some dish, or many, that included meat. He commented, “Sometimes I wish I could eat meat. I might like to try something like that.”

I get it, Buddy. I really do. I ate meat for 20+ years of my life until I gradually realized I didn’t any more. And now I don’t, and don’t want to.

I told my kiddo: “You know, their food probably tastes great. But it’s not as healthy for their bodies or the planet. And because they eat meat they eat less veggies, which are better for bodies and the planet. I truly believe they are missing out. Not us.”

This lentil soup reminds me of that conversation. The desire for a fab lentil soup elicited greater creativity and led me to a fab end result. I’m not missing out. Not at all.

This past weekend Teen came home early from an event and put himself to bed because he felt so sick. The next day I discovered the truth: he wanted to try it, so he’d had a few bites of chicken. However, his system didn’t want it, and those bites of chicken are still biting back three days later. (In terms of rebellious teen behavior, I don’t feel too badly…)

As he recovers, you know what he asked for? Another favorite veggie soup. Bring it on!

Lentil Soup
Serves 4-6

2 c medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 c carrots, peeled and diced
2 c celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 c zucchini, diced (optional, or sub 1 can drained/rinsed chickpeas)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp curry powder
½ tsp dried thyme
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 c brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 c vegetable broth
1 ¼ c water
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 c chopped fresh collard greens or kale, tough ribs removed; option to sub chopped spinach
Juice of ½ to 1 medium lemon, to taste

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add chopped onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, zucchini (or chickpeas), cumin, curry powder, and thyme. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Add undrained tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.

Pour in lentils, broth, and water. Add red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

Remove pot from heat. Using a stick blender, gently pulse to puree some of the soup. Alternately, transfer 2 c of soup to a blender and purée until smooth, then pour puréed soup back into the pot. Add chopped greens and stir until wilted.

Remove the pot from heat and stir in the juice of half of a lemon. Taste and season with pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavors really sing. Serve immediately.

Note: Produce varies wildly by size. For me, this recipe was about 1/2 of a large onion, 2 exceptionally fat carrots, and 6-ish skinny celery stalks. So I approximated about 2 cups of each. If you have a little more or less of an ingredient, you’re fine. Also, if you have a 28-oz can of tomatoes, just add a little more water or broth. Don’t sweat yourself, just sweat the veggies 😉

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Sweet Sugar-Free Life

At various points we all face the challenge of pain: do we make desperate attempts to escape, endure with a stiff upper lip, or work towards healthy change? Even when it’s uncomfortable, most of us tend to stick with the status quo until we simply can’t anymore. Today’s guest post might be that dose of creative courage someone needs to make transformative, life-giving change.

re:create recess #3: Cara Meredith

It all started with a question, an unknown, a search for answers.

“Do you think sugar is the cause of your inflammation?” my best friend asked me. I’d been off gluten for eight months by that point, convinced following the Whole 30 diet that gluten was the cause of joint inflammation in my back.

But an intolerable ache had returned. For nearly three years, I’d woken up almost every night with back pain – and I was done being sleepless in Seattle. Done with heating pads and moving to the couch and popping Ibuprofen at 3am because the pain kept me from sleeping.

So, I stopped eating sugar the next morning.

Like, cold-turkey stopped eating almost all processed foods (because, y’all, sugar is in everything), stopped slurping down a daily glass of wine, stopped adding a spoonful of sweet goodness to my coffee in the morning.berry-sugar

And for the first time in a long, long time, I slept through the night.

“It’s sugar!” I shouted into the phone, to my sister, my brother, my parents and every other family member who’s struggled with inflammation due to arthritis.

“It’s sugar!” I said to the rheumatologist, and she shook her head vehemently: that was NOT the cause of my pain. 

“It’s sugar!” I texted and tweeted and whispered to anyone who’d pay heed and give me the time of day.

This new journey of living a sugar-free life has been the new normal for two months now – so much so that eating this way has sparked a world of creativity within me. I read every label. I fill my grocery cart with whole, natural foods. And unlike before – when I dieted to lose weight, when I ate a certain way to avoid gestational diabetes, when I cooked according to doctor’s orders – this time in the kitchen has shaped and formed me in a new way.

Because this time, the impetus for eating this way is entirely mine. I’m not eating differently because someone else tells me I should, but I’m eating differently because I want to – and somehow, when the onus is on me, it’s easier and better and maybe, just maybe, more sustainable in the long run.

And it’s like I’ve been born again, but with wooden spoons and coconut oil and a handful of snow peas as my spiritual companions.

I look forward to Sundays, when I sit down with a stack of torn pages from magazines and cookbooks and online food blogs, and create the week’s meals. I look forward to heading to the grocery store in the afternoon, and filling my card with spinach and yellow bell peppers and a pound of fresh jumbo shrimp to boot. And I look forward to creating a holy mess in the kitchen, as I prep Mason jar salads to eat every day that week for lunch and a feast of sugar-free goodness for dinner that night.

Creating is no longer limited to the time I spend in front of the computer with my words, even though that is oftentimes one of my most creative spaces.

But now it extends to my hands and to my mouth and to my stomach – when I hold the knife, chopping, dicing, slicing, and when I extend a bowl of steaming broccoli cheddar soup to my lips, and when my insides smile at healthy food consumed.

Because for the time being, I have answers to the questions I’ve been asking.

And that, I declare, is good. 

cmeredith

 

Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from Seattle, Washington. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday. You can connect with her on her blogFacebook, and Twitter.

Meatless Monday – Cooking with Teen

Last week Teen’s senior class had a fundraiser with a local pizza place. They make a delicious deep dish spinach and mushroom pizza. And if you like, they’ll make it with whole wheat crust and vegan cheese. Yum!patxis-pizza

While I had been anticipating leftovers for dinner all day long, I returned home to find that Teen had shared my vegan pizza with his friends. My only consolation is that they ate it–and liked it! If they’d spit it out in disgust, well, then I would have been really upset.

Consequentially, Teen needed to prepare dinner for the family. He likes to cook, so this wasn’t punishment, just unusual.

He chose the menu. He invited (with permission) a cute girl to join us. I knew I’d need to play a supporting role in this endeavor, but I let him take the lead. All in the name of experience.

Teen brain + ADHD + limited experience = lots of room for learning!

He left prep for half-hour before we were supposed to eat. Dinner necessarily moved back by more than an hour.
He forgot to check for ingredients. He had to make a grocery run mid-process.
He couldn’t find ingredients in the store. He asked for help.

Now I’m thinking we need to do this more often. The meal turned out great–healthy, easy, delicious. The time together even better. The learning? Invaluable. Of course we have cooked together many times before but now, as we’re both increasingly aware that college is coming, we need to maximize both togetherness and tools for healthy eating.

He made Quinoa & Black Bean Salad (cute girl requested a quinoa salad). To round out the meal, I suggested he also make Tomato, Black Bean & Corn Soup. Because (sadly) TJ’s boxed Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup, the base for aforementioned soup, contains milk and I’m off dairy, I also made Spicy Black Bean Soup.

While he shoveled tortilla chips with green salsa into his mouth, while I sipped chardonnay, we talked and laughed. He learned that zesting a lime before juicing adds so much yum to a vinaigrette. He already knew to roll the lime before cutting to extract all its juicy goodness. He learned to consider in advance which pots and pans will be necessary to cook which dishes. He learned to judge amounts by eyeing them, and that his shakes with dried spices tend to be more generous than mine. He learned to go slowly with spices, to taste test and adjust as necessary.

Healthy meal. Time well-spent. Cute girl impressed. An all-around good evening!