organicglory

simple nibbles of natural goodness

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope that if you live in the Northeast you aren’t traveling today. It’s going to be a nightmare from what the forecast says, so be safe if you must be on the roads or in the air! I don’t know if I’m ready for it to be snow season again, but I suspect that these two are……

Our holiday plans have definitely changed because of the storm. We are having two Thanksgiving dinners now — one on Thursday with my side, one on Saturday with Mark’s family — which is going to be “fun”?? Working all week and cooking for two meals and then fending for myself with a crazy toddler while Mark works the rest of the weekend sounds straight-up awful, to be honest, but it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving in our family without something crazy happening or some last-minute changing of plans. I suspect many families are the same, especially given how geographically spread out people are these days, and how severely this storm seems to be affecting travel plans. Half my in-laws won’t be able to get to Boston from New York today, hence the postponed celebration.

So, what am I making this year? Cranberry sauce and green beans for the first dinner on Thanksgiving Day, and beer bread and corn casserole for the second round of festivities. In past years, I’ve done this awesome Mashed Potato recipe that is super creamy and buttery, and which you make the day ahead! No more peeling, boiling and mixing on Thanksgiving morning. Other favorites include this brussels sprouts gratin, and butterscotch or honey-glazed carrots. I narrowly dodged being asked to make a pie from scratch (!) so now I have to just buckle down with some wine and music to whip these things up tonight!

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Mostly, I’m excited for leftovers. My mom is in Florida for Thanksgiving this year, so I am sad to be missing out on her broccoli casserole (YUM) which is my favorite of all the leftovers. I always have a fair amount of cranberry jelly left over, and in recent years I’ve taken to making this yummy next-day smoothie with it. Of course, it’s also delicious on a nice turkey sandwich, or mixed with goat cheese a la this concoction for dipping with crackers.

Whatever you make and wherever you go, be safe, be blessed, and cherish your time with family and friends. XOXO, from our family to yours :)

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

Ever on the hunt for easy, family-friendly recipes, I tried to make a simple chicken and vegetable curry with minimal spice (to please Mr. Boring Meat and Potatoes Palate) in the slow cooker last weekend. Can I just say…wow! This is a definite winner! It’s officially added to our regular rotation.

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I kept it bland, but you can amp up the spice if you like, and serve over the rice of your choosing (or plain).

The original recipe called for cauliflower, which I love but Mark hates, so I doubled up the other veggies, in particular the Brussels Sprouts since they’re a fave in our house. You can really customize this however you like, though, and make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat. If you keep the chicken, though, I think you’ll be pleased to find that it cooks down into flavorful, really moist shredded pieces in this recipe. Perfect for spooning onto a sub roll for lunch the next day!

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Freeze leftovers or take them for lunch all week long. I paired this with a salad for lunch one day, and this veggie dish another. (Belgian Salad? Brussels Sprouts? Do we have some kind of weird theme happening here?) Again, this has no heat to it whatsoever, so fear not, wimps! Mark can’t even tolerate a hint of spice, and it didn’t hurt this dish one bit.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

INGREDIENTS

I bought all mine at Trader Joe’s but all are widely available.

  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1 medium white OR red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, light
  • 2 TBSP curry powder
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice (about half one fresh lemon)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Start by chopping all your dry ingredients: peel and cube the sweet potato, dice the red pepper, and chop the onion. Place all veggies in the slow cooker (including frozen Brussels sprouts) except the frozen peas and lemon juice. Pour in wet ingredients (coconut milk, tomato sauce, chicken broth) plus the beans, drained and rinsed, and curry powder. Stir, then place chicken breasts on top. I cut mine in half first, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

Set slow cooker for low and cook 8 hours, stirring occasionally if you are home. Or, cook on high for four hours. Just before serving, pour in the frozen peas and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Enjoy with rice on the side, or plain.

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If you are making this vegetarian, be sure to increase the amount of vegetables to compensate for the space the chicken would have taken up, and cook for less time (about 6 hours on low). If you decide to add the cauliflower back in, the original recipe calls for 1 cup chopped. If you’d like for this to be spicy, I’d recommend adding 1 tsp cayenne (or hot sauce to taste) at the beginning when you add the curry powder.

You really can’t go wrong with this one. I hope you like it! Great for having a crowd over, or just for stocking up for the work week and before all that cooking over the holidays.

My other go-to for weekend cooking, especially right before a week like Thanksgiving when your kitchen is focused on holiday prep, are these vegetarian stuffed shells. So easy, so yummy, so filling. So Italian (just like me! And Georgia, who is VERY interested in helping in the kitchen these days).

This year, I am making Balsamic Roasted Green Beans and Homemade Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving at my dad’s house (gotta climb into the Wayback Machine for that first recipe!) And Georgia can eat everything this year ~ how exciting! Here’s what she looked like last Thanksgiving at just three months old :( I would be sad, but I remember how poorly we were sleeping back then, and I’d much rather take the craziness of toddlerhood with everyone getting a full night’s sleep.

Chicken curry recipe adapted from SarahFit, who says each of the five 3-cup servings has about 300 calories. She also puts the total cost at less than $25, which sounds about right. Cheap, healthy and tasty ~ awesome!

Better Together: Shortcut Chili and Baked Macaroni and Cheese

I’m trying a new thing where I pair recipes whose ingredients overlap so you can save time at the store and eliminate waste by using every last bit of what you bought. These two recipes pair nicely because they share both sour cream and shredded cheese, yet are totally different, so you aren’t going to OD on similar food. Your total cost to make both should be less than $20. 

~ Natural buddies: Baked Egg Noodles with Cheese and Shortcut Chili ~

Two packages shredded cheese = $5; noodles = $1; sour cream = $1.50; 1 egg, milk and seasonings you should have on hand already (or spend less than $4 each for a dozen eggs and half gallon of milk). Bread crumbs are another thing I keep on hand, or pay about $2.25 for one package by Progresso. One package fresh salsa = $3, one package frozen vegetarian crumbles = $4, one can of beans $1 or less.

The part that’s unpictured: the veggies I always serve on the side! Do this, and you’ve got two not-too-bad-for-you, family-friendly meals that are relatively balanced in nutrition. Both are vegetarian, and both come together quickly on a weeknight. Enjoy! And if you found this post helpful, share or click “like” so we can keep more of ‘em coming :)

Shortcutting Risotto

This isn’t earth-shattering, but due to a cooking mistake I learned that you can pre-make part of risotto to save yourself time, and it still comes out A-OK. I always assumed that if you made the rice ahead of time, it would turn to glue on reheating. Apparently, by under-cooking the rice just a bit, you can successfully reheat it later in a big pot with another cup or two of water or stock, and get dinner on the table faster than making risotto start-to-finish at one time. I had to do this last week because, in the middle of making this for dinner, I realized that the sausage I’d just purchased had already gone bad. Oh no!

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That night, we had no choice but to order takeout and call it a day. So I packed up the already-cooked risotto into the fridge and bought some more sausage and onions this weekend, hoping I could revive the dish.

Here’s what I did: I set the large stock pot over low, added the cold risotto with two cups of water, and slowly stirred while cooking the add-ins (in this case, a chopped red pepper and sliced chicken apple sausage). As I’ve written before, risotto is very versatile and takes to almost any ingredient. I just saute the add-ins separately in a pan with minimal, if any, oil; then they get combined with the risotto right at the end, before I shred in some cheese.

It came out just fine, and we were able to have a hearty dinner that night with plenty of leftovers for the week. I was glad that the sausage mishap didn’t mean throwing out all those other ingredients, too! There’s nothing I hate more than wasting food.

The best way to save time with risotto, in my opinion, is to pre-saute your add-ins the day before, and that way you only have to focus on cooking the rice itself the night you’re serving it. It saves you lots of prep time. You could even chop your onion the night before so it’s ready to start off the dish the next day after work. But if you have to do it the way I did, just make sure to reserve some stock or water for re-heating and season it well with salt and plenty of grated cheese so the flavor doesn’t fall flat.

What are your short-cut secrets to getting an involved dinner on the table quickly on weeknights? I’d love to know!

You guys! Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ comes to Massachusetts THIS WEEKEND

You know I’ll be watching, since I re-arrange my schedule around this show all the time. (Yes, I know what a DVR is, and yes, we do have one).

This is going to be our first weekend home together, just the three of us, in months. I am so looking forward to that!! 

Halloween Pics & Food News

Well. Georgia loved Halloween! Her whole family came over except for my in-laws, who were out of town, and we took her out for trick-or-treating for the second time in her life. The first time, she slept through it in daddy’s arms! This time, she was walking on her own, and she loved meeting all our neighbors! We’ve gone from having zero kids in the neighborhood to families with young children in every other house in the space of three years, which is awesome. I loved seeing all the costumes, the decorated houses, and chatting with some of our older neighbors who we don’t get to see very often. All in all, a feel-good Friday night, and we even navigated Daylight Saving Time unscathed.

Georgia also helped me decorate the house before our visitors arrived! We kept it simple by ordering pizza and wings for the whole crew. Her monogrammed “winged bat” treat bag is from Pottery Barn Kids, and her ladybug costume is Carter’s from Macy’s in Boston.

You better believe I stocked up on clearance candy this weekend for my office!

So what else is new?

Well, I was extremely excited to read about a new Swedish study that shows (in mainstream medicine, anyway) what homeopaths and complementary & alternative health practitioners — not to mention the rest of the world — have known for years: that milk is really not that good for you.

It’s no secret that sales of cow’s milk alternatives like rice, soy, almond, coconut and hemp milk have taken off in recent years, and with good reason: many boast impressive health claims and taste great too. Apparently, the dairy industry has taken notice, and is launching a major ad campaign to reinforce the notion that milk “does a body good.” Of course, it’s easy for me to say avoid milk, because I straight-up hate the taste of it and always have, and I’m lactose intolerant like 80% of humanity. So I understand that true milk lovers will have a harder time accepting that a big industry has lied to them their whole lives, and that milk contributes to higher mortality among populations that drink it most — and that bone health is excellent in populations that don’t drink it at all.

That said, you DO have to do your research when it comes to milk substitutes. It’s not as simple as chugging a bunch of soy or almond milk, and none of those options should be given to babies or toddlers outside a doctor’s supervision. Time ran a decent comparison of some popular non-dairy drinks earlier this year, and Self has a good slideshow that takes you through the options for replacing conventional cow’s milk, including organic milk, which is what we give Georgia every day.

Speaking of dairy alternatives, check out this amazing-looking Vegan Strawberry Orange Julius (whose flavors I’ve celebrated before!)

What else caught my eye lately:

Apparently you should always preheat your baking sheet

Did you know you can still use ingredients that have “gone bad?”

The stark differences between what the rich & poor feed their babies

Even more reasons to love eggs (except when you’re newly pregnant)

A list of the top nutritional powerhouse fruits & veggies you should be eating

This genius idea for remaking school fundraisers that rely on junk food

And, OK, fine ~ I’ll share a couple vegan recipes. This comes from Chloe Coscarelli’s new book on Italian vegan cooking (it IS possible and it’s not very hard). I love how accessible and filling her recipes are. You don’t feel you’re making a sacrifice.

Chloe’s Bow ties in garlic cream sauce and vegan lasagna

Have a wonderful week, everyone.

Oh, and if you haven’t already, get out there and vote!

 

Rotini with Sweet Italian Sausage & Spaghetti Squash

Did you know how easy it is to make spaghetti squash? I recently learned how, so I wanted to share a quick tutorial. Then I needed something to serve it with, so of course I turned to pasta! I’m Italian, it’s getting cold out, and I have a carb-hungry toddler to feed. I got the inspiration for this pasta from a former co-worker whose wife made a similar dish that came out so well he raved about it on Facebook (what a guy!) I thought, “you know what? I haven’t simmered sausage in tomato sauce for a really long time. I’ll bet Mark would like that.” So I did. And he did.

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Rotini with Sweet Italian Sausage

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package sweet (not hot) Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. rotini pasta, or similar shape
  • 1 jar marinara sauce, preferably something simple (I chose chunky roasted tomato and garlic from Classico, which is among the healthier brands)
  • grated cheese for topping, such as parmesan
  • optional: eggplant (I had some leftover from another recipe, sliced and grilled with fresh tomatoes, so I added it into the sauce)

DIRECTIONS

In a skillet, cook the sausage over medium either in an inch of water or plain in the pan until they start to brown. I chose to break mine up with the spoon to cook faster, but you can also leave them whole and then simmer longer once you add the sauce so they cook through and stay moist. You can choose to keep the fat and pan scrapings, or drain them off before adding the sauce.

Meanwhile, in a separate (good sized) pot, boil water for the pasta and cook until al-dente; drain and set aside.

When the sausage is sufficiently browned, add the eggplant (if using) to the pan, then the jar of tomato sauce. Cook on low until the flavors meld, as long as half an hour if you’d like. Finally, add both into the reserved pot of drained pasta, and cook on low for a couple minutes so the flavors blend.

Top with freshly grated cheese, such as parmesan.

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Now what better to pair with this hearty pasta than a light fluffy squash? The kind you can cook in a jiffy? Enter our spaghetti squash. Here are the simple steps to cooking this tasty vegetable, which I’ve seen people serve like they do regular spaghetti, complete with tomato sauce and other pasta toppings. I’m not sure it would quite satisfy my carb cravings that way, but I know many folks who swear by it as the staple of a weight-loss diet. I think it makes a lovely side, and all you have to do after cooking is top it with shredded cheese — or have it plain!

HOW TO: COOK SPAGHETTI SQUASH

I don’t know why I thought this was difficult, but it’s beyond easy. As long as you have a high-quality, sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board, the hardest part is the first slice to cut it in half.

Step by Step

1) Preheat the oven to 400.

2) Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds (they’ll look similar to pumpkin seeds) and discard.

3) Place face down in a glass baking dish and pour in water until the edges of each half are just submerged.

4) Cover with tinfoil and cook for at least 30 minutes in the oven, or until tender when poked with a fork.

5) Transfer to a bowl and scrape out the “spaghetti” strands with a fork.

6) Top with cheese or serve plain. That’s it!

In other news, have a great Halloween tonight! Maybe check out this network of dentists that will buy your extra candy to make care packages for the troops? — and while you’re watching the sweets, go easy on the soda, too! Apparently it can age you as much as a daily smoking habit. If you’re near a Chipotle tonight, you’re entitled to free goodies for showing up in costume. And when we are all candied out, this is the refreshing-looking fruit I’m going to share with G (all the yum, no tedious chopping and scooping just to get to the good parts). Speaking of G, here she is at our office “trick or treat” party, sporting her ladybug getup a few days early :)

Stay safe tonight!

Did you know there’s a wrong way to organize your fridge?

Turns out, there is a right and a wrong way to store things in your refrigerator!  I always knew you shouldn’t store food on top of the fridge, but many other things in here were news to me. Olive oil in the fridge? Tomatoes on the counter? Read on and learn how to save money by preventing premature food spoilage while conserving the energy it takes your refrigerator to run every day.

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A couple of these were new to me.

I always used to throw onions in the crisper, but now they are hanging out on the counter so they don’t spoil as fast.

Conversely, I never refrigerate nuts or nut butters, and I didn’t realize you should!

Thanks to this graphic, I’ve started storing my eggs on the bottom shelf instead of the top, and dairy products off the door (although that’s very challenging, because my top shelf can only fit milk cartons along one side. I have the smallest fridge in the universe! And we go through so much milk now that we have Georgia around).

Thanks to the article accompanying this graphic, I now know that the lower levels are the coldest levels, which is why raw meat and eggs belong here, while the top levels have the most consistent temperatures.

I also discovered that packing your freezer full saves energy, but packing your fridge too much actually inhibits cold air from circulating freely and can jack up your energy bills. Good to know!

You can read the full article that goes along with this graphic here. What about you? Did any of these surprise you?

Happy Friday from me and the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead :)

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The worst candies for Halloween

I have to re-blog Sarah Fit again today ~ she has a helpful and funny guide to the top five candies you should avoid on Halloween, with great tips on how to scan labels for sneaky hidden ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup masquerading under a different name. And tragedy of all tragedies, Butterfinger is the worst one. My favorite!! 

Real Simple also has a fun side-by-side comparison to help you pick the ‘better’ candies. I was happy to read in here that Snickers — my other favorite — edged out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and that Peanut M&Ms won out over Skittles. Read the whole article to compare your favorites!

Looking for more Halloween alternatives to giving out (and eating) tons of candy loaded with crap ingredients? Check out Mama Natural’s complete guide to Halloween, including information on her “80/20 rule” for eating the trick-or-treat haul, and some cool information on helping kids with allergies to enjoy Halloween. I’ll be busy decorating the house and my office for trick-or-treaters! We always put up these ghost lights to line our walkway, and how pretty is this Halloween-themed wreath from Etsy?

Etsy, $65, RedRobynLane shop.

In case you are wondering, Georgia is going to be a lady bug this year. Pictures, of course, are forthcoming!

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Join me @ the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival Oct 25-26!

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 Who’s going??? Ping me if you are! 

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