Homemade Fruit Snacks

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We’ve been giving Indira whole foods for a few months now, simply because she prefers them over purées and would much rather feed herself than be spoon-fed. Girl knows what’s up.

So far her favorite foods are mainly in the fruit category—oranges and blueberries ranking supreme. She adores these fruit snacks as well, and I feel good about giving them to her because they contain collagen, an essential nutrient in helping keep our bodies healthy and growing. Definitely recommend giving it a try if you’ve never used it before.

Homemade Fruit Snacks

A few notes: For the juice, I like 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup lemon juice. For the berries, frozen raspberries are my favorite. You can skip the honey/sugar if your fruit is really sweet, though gelatin has a way of reducing the overall sweetness in the end product, so a little bit extra can help. Finally, if you’re using raw honey, don’t heat it—just add it at the very end. // Yield: About 40 bite-size snacks

3/4 cup fruit juice
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup berries
5 tablespoons Vital Proteins gelatin (or other unflavored gelatin)

2 tablespoons honey or sugar, or a few drops of liquid stevia (optional)

Combine about half of your juice (just eyeball it), applesauce, and berries in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and heat until hot, but not boiling.

Combine gelatin with remaining (cold) juice, whisking to combine well; make sure there are no lumps. Note that this is how Vital Proteins gelatin works best–you combine it with cold liquid, then whisk in hot. Your gelatin may differ so revise accordingly.

Slowly whisk hot fruit-juice mixture into gelatin, whisking until well combined. You may need to return it to the blender if there are lumps.

Pour into a small glass baking dish (no need to grease) or silcone molds. I fill one little silicone heart mold and pour the rest into a small 3-cup glass baking dish. Refrigerate for a few hours until firm, then remove with a spatula (it should come out as one piece with some careful prodding) and cut into bite-size pieces or use a cookie cutter to make shapes if you’re feeling extra fancy.

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What’s Been Cooking

Park Walk

It’s been another busy month around here, with more work trips (this time to L.A.) and time spent outdoors enjoying the last of the fall foliage (photo above Suraj took on one of our many walks at a park nearby). This week, I’m off to Buffalo for Thanksgiving and am really looking forward to the break.

I don’t have a set recipe for today, but thought I’d just share some links to things I’ve been cooking these past few weeks, in case anyone is looking for inspiration:

–These sweet potato waffles are my new fav. I made this recipe for the first time a few weeks ago, after finally buying a new waffle maker, and they’re awesome. We have a stash stored in the freezer and they are excellent re-toasted and spread with peanut butter and fig jam (trust me on this one…).
–For a quick, ready-made lunch solution, I made a big batch of these freezer burritos a few weeks ago and can’t recommend them enough. I kept them vegetarian and used sour cream, refried black beans (this recipe), brown rice, sauteed ripe plantains, and cilantro for my filling. They reheat in about a minute in the microwave. Suraj is a huge fan. I may do another batch soon, with scrambled egg, for a breakfast version.
–This wild salmon soup is a staple for us, and is especially easy to throw together when I have homemade broth on hand. We usually use potatoes in place of the squash.
–I thought I didn’t like teriyaki until I tried this recipe, and now I’m a total convert. It’s SO simple and SO good. We had it for dinner last night with garlicky green beans. You can get chicken with the skin on (vital for this recipe) at Whole Foods; it’s in the sealed packages.

As for Thanksgiving, here’s a few things I’m taking home with me, as well as what I’ll be making there (each of my siblings is bringing a dish or two, and my mom’s got the rest…homemade pies included. So excited!):

broccoli cheese bites. Super easy to throw together and will be a good breakfast/snack during my 8-hour drive. Would also make a great appetizer if you did them in mini-muffin pans.
butternut squash and orzo salad. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for months, after my friend Jess sang its praises. She was right; it’s great! I’m packing a huge container and we’ll likely eat it for a few lunches this week. I subbed feta for the blue cheese.
hummus. This is something I seem to take home and on vacation without fail (mainly because my sister loves it as much as I do). This recipe is my go-to; it’s so smooth! I add a little more water and/or olive oil at the end, and it’s done it about 30 seconds in my Vitamix. We’ll probably have it with salad and pita at some point. (Sidenote: Have you ever had pizza with hummus for dipping? You’ll never eat it any other way once you do.)
Italian vinaigrette. Is it weird that I am packing my own salad dressing to take home? Well I don’t care if it is because this is my new favorite dressing and I can’t imagine any salad without it. I also plan on using it in a panzanella (bread) salad I’ll make while I’m there, for which I’ll use this sourdough for the bread.
s’mores cupcakes. I made these a few weeks ago for a Halloween party, and they were a total hit. I’m going to make them again at Thanksgiving, for the kids (in hopes that they will eat them instead of all the pie).

Hope everyone has a fantastic holiday!

Thanksgiving Table

 

Garlicky White Beans in Olive Oil

White Beans 2

Between work and weekends away, September was full. I started the month by participating in two back-to-back swim races—the first a 2-mile swim in the Merrimack River, and the second a 1.4-mile ocean swim in Cape Cod. I should probably preface this all by first telling you this: swimming in races, or competitively at all, is very new to me. I’ve never been on a swim team, or done a triathlon, or anything like that. I swam a lot as a kid, but that’s about it.

My close friend, Jen, however, is an accomplished swimmer and equally great cheerleader. After a few lessons with her last year (in which I actually learned to breathe properly while doing laps—eureka!), I felt good enough to try the 1-mile version of the Merrimack swim. I survived, and vowed to do it again this year, only this time aiming to complete the 2-mile stretch instead of the one. I also decided to finally join her for the ocean race, which I wussed out of last year because 1) shark sightings, 2) choppy waves, and 3) fear of swimming the wrong way into the great abyss.

Swim Race

Alas, both were great events. Exhausting and humbling too (the 60-70 year old bracket is NO JOKE). My favorite by far was the ocean swim. Over 400 swimmers, amazing views, great crowd, and a chance to swim in the open ocean—it was a really cool 53 minute moment.

After the swims followed a work trip to Pennsylvania (during which I also visited my sister and her family, woohoo), and then my birthday. And here we are. October. One of my very favorite months. For eating and for just being. And also for wearing scarves.

Continuing on this fall theme, I’ve wanted to post this recipe for white beans for a while now. I have been making them for years and it’s another staple in our house, especially in these cooler, heartier months. We eat beans and lentils a lot, a fact which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. They’re such a great protein source and I find them especially perfect for incorporating into packed lunches.

This particular recipe is dead easy too—cook your white beans (or use canned), then simmer them in olive oil, garlic, and maybe a few spices until they’re silky smooth and flavorful. The recipe is very similar to the garlic confit I talked about here (tip #7), but probably even more versatile. You can eat the warm beans and oil with bread, toss with pasta, mix into salad (the oil is an instant dressing), spoon over cooked chicken and rice, or purée into hummus. And because oil is a natural food preserver, you can keep a jar in your fridge indefinitely, pulling it out whenever inspiration, or time, is running low.

Garlicky White Beans in Olive Oil
You can always use canned white beans in place of cooking your own—I just prefer doing it myself as it’s cheaper and I prefer the taste. If you end up cooking too many beans, just toss the extra in a freezer bag and lay flat to freeze (as I mention here—see tip #4), then crack off a chunk whenever you need them.

1 cup dried white beans (navy, cannellini, “small white,” or whatever you like), soaked overnight in water
Olive oil (I prefer “light” not extra-virgin for this, because you’re heating it)
Kosher salt
6 to 7 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
Spices: red pepper flakes, dried basil, oregano, etc.

[If you’re using canned beans, skip directly to the next paragraph.] Drain and rinse the soaked beans and transfer to a cooking pot. Cover with at least one inch of water and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender—this usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes but will depend on the size of the bean and how long you’ve soaked them for. You want them cooked all the way through and somewhat tender, but not falling apart.

Drain the beans well and return to the pot. Cover with enough olive oil to cover by about 1-inch. Yes, it’s a lot of oil, but it can be used/re-used in tons of ways! Even if you end up eating all the beans out of it later, the garlic-infused oil that remains is great as a salad dressing, as a bread dip, or drizzled over pasta.

Heat the beans and oil on low until you start to hear the oil sizzling a bit, but not popping like crazy, which would be dangerous. Add the salt (a generous amount—I probably use a teaspoon of kosher salt at least), garlic, and any spices you like. I use the three spices listed above—a big pinch of each. You’ll have to taste as you go along for seasonings, but just add whatever looks good to you. You could also add garlic powder, fresh herbs, or even a few tablespoons of pesto.

Cook on low for 20 minutes or so, until the seasonings are fragrant and the beans are really tender—it’s okay if they start falling apart. Just be careful not to let the garlic brown (instead of leaving them whole, you can also finely grate/microplane the cloves, which allows them to just melt into the oil—both are excellent).

Once the beans are silky smooth, remove from heat, cover, and let sit until warm but not hot. Serve however you like (see suggestions above), or transfer to a large glass jar and refrigerate—it will last indefinitely so long as the oil is covering the beans completely. I’d argue it even gets better with age.

White Beans 3

Cream Scones

Scone 5

This scone recipe is one of the only recipes I know by heart. I’m not sure how long I’ve been making them—it’s probably creeping up on a decade now—but I can tell you this: every person I have ever made them for has either 1) requested the recipe, and/or 2) requested that I bring them to all future gatherings. This includes people who 1) don’t normally cook, and/or 2) say they “never thought they liked scones.”

The secret lies in the cream. Use any other liquid—milk, buttermilk, half & half—and they’re just not the same. Use the cream and you’re in for the flakiest, tastiest, most delicate scone you’ve ever had in your life, I promise. Even fancy bakery shop versions pale in comparison.

I’m headed to the Adirondack Mountains in New York next week (vacation! finally!) to spend some time with my family, and these scones are already on our pre-planned menu (yes, my sister and I do this in advance to make everyone’s lives easier). We bring the scones frozen and unbaked (dried cherry and chocolate chip are this year’s options), and bake them up fresh in the morning. Scone and vacation bliss all rolled into one.

Unbaked Scone

Cream Scones
I first found this recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog, but it’s originally from the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook (which I own and love). I’ve tried countless other scone recipes in addition to this one, and none have ever held a candle to these. As I mentioned, I make the full batch then freeze the extras (cut and unbaked, as seen above). When needed, just bake them straight out of the freezer—adding a minute or two to the cooking time (no defrosting required). They are a freezer staple and especially convenient when hosting overnight guests.

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (I’ve tried subbing half whole-wheat and it’s good, but not quite the same)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or chopped dried fruit
1 cup heavy cream (I like Trader Joe’s brand or High Lawn Farms because they are the only two I’ve found without stabilizers or additives)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together in large bowl.

Using a pastry blender (this is what I use) or your fingertips, quickly cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps; when doing it with your fingers, just quickly rub the flour-coated butter pieces between your thumb and middle finger, almost like you’re snapping your fingers. The goal is to create thin little sheets and pea-sized flecks of butter, so work quickly. You do not want the butter to melt or soften at all (the coarse, cold bits are what make the scones flaky)—it should not be uniform in texture.

Stir in chocolate chips or add-in of choice.

Pour the heavy cream over the mixture, and mix with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to your countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Try not to overwork the dough. You still don’t want those butter bits to melt.

Form dough into a large square or circle and cut into 8 wedges or squares. You can also just scoop out the dough using a large ice cream scoop if you prefer rounds.

If you don’t want to bake all the scones at once, place the extras on a sheet and transfer to the freezer. Once frozen, transfer scones to a plastic bag for future baking.

For those you want to bake right away, place rounds or wedges on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired. Bake until edges are slightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, within a few hours of baking them (scones are one of those things that don’t keep very well—though they can be saved by a little reheat in the toaster oven if necessary).

Note: If you have extra cream and you’re not sure how to use it up, just put half a cup or so in a mason jar and shake vigorously until the “sloshing” noise subsides and the cream has turned from a liquid into soft-whipped cream. Add a spoonful of sugar and shake a little more. Voila, fresh whipped cream! Put it on your scone with jam or stewed berries (as pictured below).

Scones 4

My Top 10 Kitchen Tips

Slicing bread for the freezer (Tip 5).

Slicing bread for the freezer (Tip #2).

Conversations about food are, not surprisingly, some of my favorite conversations to have.

But conversations about food that happen while in the act of cooking—now those are the very best.

They begin, of course, in the kitchen, the invariable place where people linger, no matter how much bigger/cooler/quieter any other room in the house. They’re conversations that are a little of this and a little of that (How’s your mom doing? Where’s this wine from?), jumping around like the cooking itself. But through them, bits of knowledge and cooking “style” emerge. I’ve never seen someone cut an onion like that!, or, I love this little butter knife, or, How do you keep your cilantro fresh for so long?! 

The answers to these questions come from years of cooking, or notes from a grandmother’s cookbook, or a friend’s recommendation, or something somebody once read in a magazine at the doctor’s office. Kitchen fairy dust. We take them home and apply them to our own cooking, adapting as we see fit, and perhaps even re-telling to future guests at our own table.

With that in mind, I’m sharing ten of my favorite cooking and kitchen tips here today. They’re quite a mish-mash and some you probably already know, but perhaps you’ll find a few you can hang onto. Feel free to share your own in the comments as well! 🙂


My Top 10 Kitchen Tips

  1. When prepping for a meal, keep a mixing bowl on the counter just for garbage/scraps. That way you’re not walking to the trash every five seconds to throw peels and onion skins away. I seriously couldn’t function without doing this and the garbage can is only about 3 steps away, ha. Just dump out the bowl once full, or at the end of cooking.

  2. Keep a loaf of sliced bread in the freezer. Whenever I make homemade bread, or buy a nice artisan loaf from the store, I slice it all and put it directly in the freezer. That way nothing goes stale and we always have bread—very important considering toast is my favorite breakfast item. Sliced bread defrosts in no time, so all you need to do is take it out a few minutes before mealtime (or put it directly in the toaster). To serve warm, just wrap in foil and put in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes or so. // As for bread ends and crusts certain people despise, I save them in a bag in the freezer. When it’s full, I pulse in the food processor for instant breadcrumbs, which I use for breaded chicken.

  3. Keeping on the freezer theme, keep a running list of all the things you have in your freezer. I keep mine in the Evernote app (see my screen shot below), so I can access the list anywhere. This is especially helpful when at the store, or when thinking about dinner at 3 pm and trying to figure out a plan. It really helps you use up stuff too, rather than letting it go to waste. Note: We have a small freezer (see photo below) and I’m able to fit all that stuff by stacking things flat and being completely anal about it, ha—though there is still a certain risk factor when you open the door sometimes, as Suraj will tell you, and it’s usually a full pint of Häagen-Dazs to the foot.

    Screenshot (5)

    You name, I have a list for it.

    Freezer

    Jenga, freezer edition. Lots of bread, burgers (veg and reg), broth, beans, grains (farro), and ice cream of course. The meats and veggies are in the back.


  4. Make double batches of grains, rice, and beans on a Sunday (or whatever day you have free), and freeze the leftovers flat in a gallon-size bag. I know I’ve mentioned this before (here), but I truly find this indispensable. Just last week, Suraj and I were eating leftovers for a quick work lunch and he mentioned that his curry would be great with rice, which we didn’t have in the fridge and had no time to make. I grabbed the bag of frozen rice out of the freezer, knocked off a chunk, and tossed it in his bowl. Such a lifelunchsaver. // Bonus tip: While you’re cooking up your grains, start washing and slicing up any produce you have the fridge. This little bit of prep work goes a long way on busy weeknights or when someone wants a snack. Sliced carrots, celery, and peppers are a favorite.

  5. When making homemade burgers, meatballs, or kebabs, add shredded zucchini. This keeps them from drying out, adds flavor, and makes them healthier. It also helps you use up zucchini if you’re lucky enough to have an abundance! I add 1 to 2 cups shredded zucchini for every 1 1/4 lbs meat (usually lamb or turkey). This makes at least 8 burgers for us, and I freeze half the batch for future dinners. // Since we don’t have a grill, we cook our burgers by first searing in a hot cast-iron pan, then transferring to a 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes. Perfectly cooked burgers every time, plus you can throw some potatoes into the oven around the same time for oven fries. This tip originally came from one of my favorite cookbooks, Jerusalem, and the author’s turkey and zucchini burgers (recipe can be found here if you’re interested).

  6. If you get stuck coming up with a new dinner every night, try at least establishing a “theme” each night and using that as a template. For instance, make Monday “meat and potatoes” night, Tuesday “pasta” night, Wednesday “international” night, and Thursday takeout. Then be creative within those parameters. I find this helps prevent burnout and keeps me from getting overwhelmed with ideas. Thursday, for example, is always “sausage and roasted veg” night for us because I have no time/energy by week’s end. This strategy can also be really useful for families with children, as it gives kids the structure they often crave.

  7. My favorite bread dip / oil for roasting vegetables / salad dressing: Garlic confit. It sounds fancy but is dead easy to make. Heat a cup of olive oil over low to medium heat. Add whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic (I add at least 20-25 cloves, or two small heads), a pinch of kosher salt, and any herbs you like (I just do red pepper flakes). Let simmer for 20 minutes. The cloves soften and can be pulled out of their skins and mashed onto bread or added to roasted veggies. The garlic-infused olive oil is pretty much amazing on anything, from meat to veggies to salad (with a little lemon juice). It also keeps in the fridge indefinitely (note that my oil solidifies once chilled, though not all olive oils do).  Garlic Confit

  8. My fastest, goes-with-anything dip: Greek yogurt + squirt of Sriracha. Dash of lime, cumin, and/or salt optional. I eat this with sausage (on Thursdays!), sweet potato fries, and basically any vegetable I can dip (cooked or raw).

  9. Save your strawberry tops (yes, the leaf part) and add them to a bottle of water. Leave overnight and the next day you’ll have delicious strawberry-flavored water. This works with actual berries too, but I prefer eating those! Use organic if you can, since you’re using the leaves. This is a great drink for parties, or when you’re bored with just drinking regular water.

  10. You can clean almost everything with a simple solution of vinegar + water. I measure equal parts of each, add in a few drops of essential oil (usually lemongrass and grapefruit, but anything will work), and put it in a spray bottle. I use this solution throughout the house, and even as a vegetable- and fruit-wash, usually diluted with a little more water. Vinegar is one of the best all-purpose, natural cleaners you can find.

Oh, and if you’re still wondering how I keep my cilantro fresh for so long (astute reader that you are), I wrap it in a moist paper towel, put it in a plastic bag, and keep it in the crisper drawer in the fridge. Lasts for a good two weeks that way.

I’d love to hear your favorite tips in the comments below!

Sofrito (a Dinner Savior)

Sofrito

It’s been a busy couple weeks around here. First I came down with some wicked virus that nearly knocked me out cold, then it was Suraj’s birthday (which we celebrated by way of a day-long music concert with friends and this cake), and finally it was off to Austin, TX for a work conference.

The conference was great and I got to meet up with a few of my wonderful authors, but my wallet was lost/stolen the first night we got there, while out exploring, and I’ve spent way too much since then trying to cancel and replace everything. Thankfully, I did make it through airport security sans ID (after some serious TSA questioning and a way-beyond-first-base pat down) and all is back in order now.

Despite that little setback, Austin was fantastic. The food was amazing, the vibe was welcoming and fun, and the city itself was beautiful. My top food picks, in case you ever plan on visiting, were Homeslice Pizza, Kerbey Lane Café (fried green tomato BLT, oh my), The Salty Sow (we magically got in without reservations, score!), Amy’s Ice Cream, Bangers, and Easy Tiger (amazing breads—I flew home with two loaves). Oh, and I also fell in love with Uber there. SO much better than taxis.

Coming back home from travel, I’m always anxious to get back into the kitchen, but rarely have the energy + groceries to jump in full-steam. That’s where my ultimate back-pocket recipe, aka sofrito, comes in. It is one of my freezer MUST-HAVES.

If you’re not familiar, sofrito is a simple Spanish sauce made of vegetables blitzed in a blender—mainly tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It takes almost no time to prepare but is the perfect avenue to any number of flavorful meals. You just heat, add in any meat, seafood, and/or vegetables you like, and serve with rice or pasta.

And just like that, you’re back in the dinner game.

Sofrito Meal

Sofrito
I like to make the full recipe here, then remove half, cool, and freeze in a gallon-size freezer bag (as I did with the broth here). That way I have one meal ready for now, and one I can make later. Along with the sweet bell peppers, we also like to add in a few Indian chilis, which I recommend if you like things hot. I’m sure other herbs like parsley would be welcome as well (this is a great way to use up CSA overflow!). If you’d like to thin down the sauce, just add broth or white wine. // Yield: 4 cups, at least

1 large can (28 oz) peeled plum tomatoes, such as San Marzano
2 red bell peppers (or 1 red + 1 green), roughly chopped
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bunch cilantro, stems included
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for olive oil in a blender or large food processor (or work in batches). Pulse until finely chopped. I like to be a little bit rough (as pictured), rather than totally smooth, but it’s up to you.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high until shimmering. Add mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced, 25 to 30 minutes (reduce heat if browning at edge). Add salt to taste.

If saving any portion for later, remove from pan, let cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 6 months.


To turn your sofrito into meal: After the sauce has cooked down, add in any protein you like, such as chunks of boneless chicken or seafood, and cook until done. Our favorites are chicken thigh meat, mussels, shrimp, or a combination of seafood (such as Trader Joe’s seafood trio).

Serve hot with pasta or rice.


To make my all-time favorite sofrito meal (pictured): While the sofrito is cooking down, boil a pot of water for rice. Rinse 1 cup (or more) of basmati rice, then add to boiling water. Cook, at a boil, for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside. Keep warm in a covered bowl.

Peel 2 large, very ripe plantains and cut into slices. Salt the slices well and then fry in a little coconut oil until browned on both sides. This should only take a few minutes. (Fried plantains are SO easy, and SO delicious.) Set aside and/or cover with foil to keep warm.

Add peeled, uncooked shrimp to the simmering sofrito (we do about 20 to 25 shrimp) and one green pepper (cut into chunks) and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp is opaque and green pepper is somewhat tender.

Top sofrito with additional cilantro if you have it, and serve alongside basmati rice, fried plantains, and avocado (I like a little Greek yogurt on top of the plantains too).

Sofrito Meal 2

Healthy Snacks

Snacks 1

The perks of being a cookbook editor are probably pretty obvious—you get to read hundreds upon hundreds of great recipes day after day. Yes, it is fun—and yes, it is exhausting. I liken it to going to the grocery store and buying one of every single thing in the store. You can make so…many…things…! The possibilities are endless! But where do you even begin? What do you do?

Simple. You faint like an over-excited goat.

(Sorry, too great not to share.)

Really though, this is what actually happens: You bookmark all your favorite recipes while you’re editing, tell everyone at lunch about your grand cooking plans—then forget about it all completely by the time you’ve reached home at 7:30 pm. You eat Chipotle for dinner.

BUT WAIT!, months later, the printed book arrives and it’s like Christmas! You get excited all over again, go nuts with your arrow flags, and bring an advanced copy home to (finally) commit to the task.

You make many, many snacks (or smoothies, or one-pot dinners, or whatever the subject may be) and declare how much you love your job, and your authors. You text your coworker friends, email your author your thanks, and decide to write a post on your blog about it all, which, ironically, is probably how you came across the book idea/author in the first place (yep, a blog).

That was a fun ride, wasn’t it? #booklyfe

So back to the snacks. They come from a new book called The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet (yes I realize the title is wicked long—it is part of a series). The author, Laura Fuentes, and I are now working on our third book project together, which pretty much puts us in best-bud territory. Laura’s recipes are awesome, and the photos she and Alison Bickel churn out are amazing. Do I sound like a proud parent? Well, I am. Sometimes you have to gloat.

After finally getting my hands on a copy yesterday (there are quite a few of us fighting over them), I picked two recipes to make for myself. This was not an easy decision as 1) I LOVE snacks, a fact you may remember from this post, and 2) I was starving so all of the recipes seemed to be calling my name. I finally settled on one one super-simple, no-bake recipe (cookie dough balls) and one healthy baked treat (a granola-type bar). I loved them both so much that I asked Laura if I could share each of them here, and she of course agreed (best buds!).

Whether you’re making them for yourself or your kids, these are quick and easy recipes. They’re also filled with natural ingredients, and are about a zillion times better than the store-bought stuff, from both a taste and a nutritional standpoint. I’ll be making them weekly—until I’m swayed by the rest of my tabbed recipe pages, of course.

No-Bake Cookie Dough Balls
These are actually called “Winnie the Pooh Snacks” in the book, but I felt slightly creepy using that title as I was just making them for myself and thought Suraj might be a bit weirded out seeing a container with that label in the fridge. They’re so good though! Like a mix between a buckeye (minus the chocolate) and peanut butter cookie dough—but with all-natural ingredients. If you’re unsure on the coconut, I’d encourage you to try them anyway, as I didn’t find that flavor noticeable at all. Next time I’m adding a few mini chocolate chips too. // Yield: 8 to 10 balls

1/2 cup (112 g) creamy almond butter (I used ¼ cup almond butter + ¼ cup natural peanut butter—definitely recommend)
1/4 cup (85 g) honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (27 g) unsweetened, dried coconut
1/3 cup (42 g) coconut flour* (see Note below)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing until they form a ball of dough. If your dough is dry, add a little more nut butter or honey. If it’s too wet, add a little more coconut flour. (Mine was just fine.)

Scoop out tablespoon-size portions and roll into balls.

Place on a plate and serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.

Note: Coconut flour is available in grocery stores now, and is a great product to keep on hand. It contains no gluten and no grain, and is low in digestive carbs and high in fiber and protein. It contains only one, all-natural ingredient—coconut—but is actually very subtle (and slightly sweet) in taste, so even if you don’t like coconut, you really can’t detect much of that flavor. And because it’s so high in fiber, you only need a small amount in any recipes calling for it, as it absorbs a good deal of liquid/moisture.


Energy Bars (aka Homemade KIND Bars)
These fruit and nut bars are the perfect cross between a granola bar and rice krispie treat, and remind me a lot of KIND bars (only with fewer ingredients). Light enough for a snack, but still satisfying. Brown rice syrup is available in most grocery stores, usually near the honey. You can swap out pretty much any of the nuts or fruit with what you have on hand, as I did below. Note that when you take them out of the oven, they may seem too soft, but they set up more once they’re full cooled. You can cut them into either squares or bars. // Yield: 8 bars or 16 squares

1 cup (110 g) almonds, coarsely chopped (I used blanched, sliced almonds)
1/2 cup (48 g) sunflower seeds, chopped (I used a mix of hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and crushed peanuts instead, as I didn’t have sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup (6 g) crisped brown rice cereal (I used plain puffed white)
1/4 cup (35 g) raisins
1/4 cup (35 g) dried blueberries (I just used ½ cup chopped dried cherries for the raisins/blueberries)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup (115 g) brown rice syrup

Preheat the oven to 325°F (170°C). Line a square baking pan with parchment paper. (I greased it with a little coconut oil first so the paper would stick.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine almonds, sunflower seeds, brown rice cereal, raisins, blueberries, sea salt, and cinnamon. Pour brown rice syrup over nuts and fruits, using a spatula to evenly distribute the syrup throughout.

Pour mixture into baking pan. Place a second piece of parchment or waxed paper on top of mixture and press down to compact ingredients (I just used wet hands). Remove the top layer of paper.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the bars begin to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Using excess parchment paper as handles, lift the bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board, paper side up. Peel off paper and cut into bars or squares. Store extras in the fridge. I like to wrap them individually in waxed paper so I can pack them in my lunch bag.

Snacks 4

Bone Broth: A How-To

Stock Pot

Homemade chicken broth, or bone broth of any kind, is a highly nutritious food and one that’s been in the press quite a bit lately (New York Times, Forbes, etc.). Essentially, it is the liquid that results from cooking down bones/meat + vegetables + water for anywhere from 6 to 24 hours (if you add salt and seasoning to it, it’s called broth; if you don’t, it’s called stock).

Bone broth dates back to prehistoric times, but has recently been rediscovered for its health benefits. While there are a lot of magical claims swirling around on the subject, here are the top three reasons I love it and consider it an important food:

  • Homemade broth is full of nutrients, including calcium and magnesium, two important minerals that we can absorb easily through drinking/eating it. Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroiton, which are thought to help ease arthritis and joint pain (many people take these in supplement form, but broth is an excellent all-natural source).
  • Bone broth is rich in gelatin. Gelatin is source of protein, helps support digestive health (many say it can help heal digestive disorders), and keeps our skin, hair, and fingernails healthy and strong. Everyone benefits from adding gelatin to their diet.
  • Bone broth proves our Moms are always right. Studies now show that chicken soup does indeed help cure colds and flu. Why did we ever doubt them? 

To summarize, bone broth is good for our guts, bones, joints, and skin (and soul if you’re still following Jack Canfield). It also happens to taste great and turns every soup we make into something remarkable… which is probably why I make a huge batch of the stuff every other week. The flavor of homemade broth is rich and decidely umami. Store-bought versions just don’t compare, from both a health and taste perspective. Just check out the ingredients next time you buy a can or carton; it’s full of flavorings and preservatives that try to mimic the flavor of the real stuff, but always fall short.

The good news is that you can make your own homemade broth for next to nothing, using ingredients you probably discard otherwise. Just how do you it? Here is my simple and easy method: I keep a gallon-size “broth bag” in my freezer at all times. Whenever we have bones left over from a meal, such as roasted chicken, they go in the bag. Whenever I have vegetable cores and scraps leftover from food prep, they go in the bag. When they bag is full—I try to fill it with roughly half bones and half veggies—I dump the contents into a big pot, cover it with water, add some peppercorns, and let it simmer all day or night. In the end, the bones are so broken down you can easily snap or crush them, all the veggies are spent, and the resulting liquid is full of both nutrients and flavor. I strain and discard all the solids, add salt, and refrigerate or freeze the broth, using it throughout the week to make soups and stews, braise other meats and vegetables, and cook rice in. It’s indispensable in our kitchen.

Any combination of meat/bones and veggies will work. In the broth pictured, for instance, the following is what I used. The first three items were leftover from cutting up a whole (organic) chicken, which is super easy and cost-effective once you get the hang of it. All of these items filled one gallon-size freezer bag:

  • two raw chicken wings, including tips
  • one raw chicken back (the part between the breasts)
  • one giblet pack that was inside the whole chicken (I took out the liver piece—it’s too strong for broth)
  • one pork bone shoulder (leftover from slow cooker pulled pork we had made)
  • roasted chicken thigh bones (meat had already been eaten off; we had baked the thighs)
  • kale stems
  • carrot peels
  • outer leaves of a cabbage
  • base of a bunch of celery, including leaves
  • base and tops of a few summer squash/zucchini
  • onion skins
  • ginger peels
  • turmeric peels

I realize that some people may wrinkle their noses at this list and the prospect of cooking down chicken bones and other otherwise-unsavory parts, but I actually find it to be quite a beautiful and respectful act. Using all these parts allows us to use the whole animal—not just the all-mighty “boneless, skinless chicken breast”—which is much more considerate and ethical to both the animal and our environment as a whole. It goes without saying that choosing and using organic meats (preferably pastured and local too) is also part of this. The good news here is that most of these items are quite cheap, and very often on sale. I never pay more than $10 to $12 for a whole, organic chicken; chicken thighs on the bone are usually under $5 for a pack of 5 to 6; and sometimes you can even find “chicken backs,” which are sold expressly for making broth, for just a few bucks.

I’ve provided a template recipe for making your own bone broth below, which I encourage you to use as a jumping off point. Try it once and I promise you’ll be a convert.

[Hover over the photos for captions.]


Bone Broth
You really can’t “mess up” broth—basically any bones or meat-on-the-bone you can save/use are great. The meat can be either cooked or uncooked; I usually use a combination. As for vegetable scraps, with the exception of potatoes and tomatoes, any sort are welcome. // All this said, if you really want to make things easy on yourself: buy an organic rotisserie chicken from the store, remove all the meat and use it in other meals, and cook whatever remains along with a bunch of carrots, celery, and an onion. You could also do this with a raw whole chicken too. // Yield: About 16 cups

Meat Parts (cooked or uncooked; with or without meat attached; organic highly preferred):
Leftover pieces of rotisserie or roasted chicken, including bones with or without meat on them (eaten or uneaten—you will be boiling it for hours so you really needn’t worry about contamination)
Chicken wings, including tips
Chicken backs and/or feet (I realize this sounds weird, but they make great broth!)
Beef, lamb, or pork bones

Vegetable Parts (basically anything you’d put in the compost bin; organic wherever possible):
Kale, chard, or any other hearty greens, stems especially
Cabbage, outer leaves and core especially
Celery, including bottom core and leaves
Carrots, including peels and tops
Cilantro or parsley stems
Onion and garlic skins (or just a whole onion, quartered)
Leeks, especially the (typically inedible) green tops
Lemon peels

Other Add-Ins (for Flavor):
Whole peppercorns
Bay Leaf
Any herbs you may have, such as rosemary or thyme
Kosher salt

Save up any of the above items in a gallon-size plastic bag, keeping it in the freezer.

Once the bag is full, pull out the largest stock pot you have, and dump it all in (no need to thaw). Cover with filtered water and add any of the “Other” items you like. I usually just do a handful of peppercorns, and add the salt at the end. You could also do this in a slow cooker instead, and just cook on low overnight or all day. Both methods are great; I’ve just been doing the stove-top version lately as the smell of the broth cooking literally wakes me up in the middle of night when it’s in the slow cooker, ha. (I have a ridiculously sensitive sense of smell.)

Bring to a boil then reduce to very low simmer and cook for at least 4 hours, ideally 6 to 10. Add water as needed if it looks like it’s cooking down too much. By the end of cooking, the liquid should be a rich golden color, with some oil drops on top (this is a great sign and = flavor).

Strain all the liquid (broth) and discard the solids. Add salt to taste—if you think your broth is too strong, add additional water until it’s as you like. I usually don’t though, even it’s really rich, because I like to freeze it in this “condensed” form, and then just add more water once I’m actually using it to make soup or other things. It takes up less space in my freezer this way.

Allow to cool and then transfer to large glass jars or other storage containers; refrigerate until needed. If your jars develop a layer of fat on top after chilling, that is great (see photo below). This actually helps seal in the broth and allows it to keep in the fridge for longer (just don’t break the seal). I just mix this layer back into the broth once I’m ready to use.

If freezing, carefully pour the strained liquid into gallon size freezer bags. Lay flat on a baking tray and freeze until “sheets” are solid (see photo below), then just stack them in your freezer. Run under warm water to defrost.

Use your broth any and everywhere! (Or be super trendy and drink it plain.)

Final Broth

Kefir & The Importance of Fermented Foods

Kefir Orange Smoothie

Several years ago, when I first started researching/learning about fermented and cultured foods, I came across a few articles about kefir, an ancient probiotic dairy drink similar to yogurt but, reportedly, even better for you.

Curiosity piqued, I picked up a bottle from the store and used it to make a smoothie. The flavor was great—tangy and slightly effervescent. Moreover, I liked how it made my stomach feel: settled and refreshed. While I had never thought of myself as someone with digestive issues or sensitivities, I did regularly feel like I had too much “air” in my stomach after eating (I really can’t think of a better way to describe it—just kind of like there were air bubbles between my rib cage or something). It was a little uncomfortable, but I honestly didn’t think it was related to what I was—or, in this case, wasn’t—eating.

But the more I drank kefir, the less the cramps seemed to happen. As I started having it daily, and making it myself rather than getting it from the store, I noticed that everything became more regulated with my digestion—no cramps/constipation/gas /bloating/nothing. I felt completely cleansed. Was this really the work of fermented food?

I am inclined to think so. Kefir was the only change I made to my already healthy diet at that point in time, and the bloating symptoms that I thought were just part of everyday life disappeared completely. Many others that I have passed on my kefir starter to have reported similar benefits.

So what are fermented foods, and how do they perform magic like this? Simply put, fermented foods are living foods rich in the microbes that our bodies need to function and thrive. Just like there is bad bacteria, there is good bacteria, and this is what fermented foods contain. These “good guys” go after the bad bacteria (and other nasty stuff), help balance out your digestive system, keep your immunity up, stave off disease, and much more. Research is only just beginning to discover all of the intricate and powerful work that microbes do.

To our misfortune, however, the amount of good bacteria (probiotics) we consume has declined sharply over the last few decades. Why? Because we over-sanitize. We ultra-pasteurize. We eat processed, dead food instead of the real, living stuff like plants. And we have let go of the age-old practices of fermentation that were once seen as vital to diet and life. Sauerkraut and pickles, for example, which were traditionally made using salt + time (the two keys to fermenting vegetables) are now made with vinegar, a shortcut technique that mimics the same “tangy” taste, but takes away all the benefits of real fermentation.

Bacteria has somehow become a bad word in our society, when in reality, it’s a vital life force.

One of the ways we can get ourselves back into balance is by adding fermented foods to our everyday diet. These foods are nothing to be scared of. Fermentation is just a process that transforms one food into an even more nourishing one. Think of cabbage → sauerkraut, cucumbers → pickles, grapes → wine, or milk → yogurt/cheese/kefir. This process, called lacto-fermentation, enables natural (healthy) bacteria to feed on the sugar and starch in the food, which in turn creates more enzymes and vitamins, breaks down difficult-to-digest food components, and makes minerals in the food more available for your body to assimilate. It also preserves the food so it can be kept longer. Magic, I tell ya!

My favorite fermented foods are sauerkraut/fermented vegetables, yogurt, kvass, kombucha, sourdough, and of course, kefir. I make most of these foods at home because I find it both simple and gratifying. It’s also much less expensive than buying them at the store, but that’s certainly fine too if you would rather! Just be sure to inspect your labels carefully. You want to see some mention of the product being “probiotic,” “naturally fermented,” “cultured,” and/or with “live and active cultures.” Going back to the pickles I mentioned earlier—most are indeed made using a shortcut version (i.e., vinegar), but you can find the real, fermented thing if you look around. A true fermented pickle will only contain cucumbers, salt, water, and maybe some spices. Here is a good example: Bubbie’s Kosher Dills. Just scroll to the bottom of the linked page and check out the label. See the simple ingredients, and the mention of “live cultures”? That’s a winner. Pickles like this can increasingly be found at health food stores, and farmers’ markets too.

As for kefir, you can either buy it from the store—in which case I would encourage you to just get the whole milk, plain variety, not the flavored stuff—or you can buy some kefir grains online and start making it yourself. The kefir grains, which look a little bit like cottage cheese, are just the “live and active cultures” you need to ferment the milk—the term “grain” just refers to their appearance; they are in no way related to wheat grains.

The process for making kefir itself is dead easy: You put your grains in a jar, add milk, cover, and let sit on your counter for about 24 hours, until you see the milk start to separate a bit and thicken. Then you just strain out the grains and your milk is now → kefir!

Homemade kefir is typically more potent than store-bought, and of course fresher. Better still, the grains can be used over and over again, and stored in the fridge in some milk when not needed. You can drink the kefir itself plain/as is, put it in smoothies (my favorite use), strain it to make “kefir cheese,” or even use a few tablespoons to soak your oats, grains, or nuts (as I covered in this post; you just sub kefir for the apple cider vinegar, as it does the same thing).

Whether it’s kefir, or sourdough, or something else, I encourage you to experiment with whatever fermented foods you think you’ll like best, and branch out as your taste for them grows, which it surely will (I still can’t believe how much I’ve grown to love sauerkraut). Start trying these foods in small doses, as they can be quite powerful—especially for those with any imbalance—and increase as you feel ready. Over time, your stomach and digestion should start acclimate and improve for the better …because, of course, you’ll be letting the good guys win!

Homemade Kefir

What you’ll need:
Kefir grains
Milk, preferably organic and whole (avoid “ultra-pasteurized,” which will not work)
Glass jar, plus a small cloth and rubber band to cover
Strainer
Bowl

  1. Kefir grains are live, active cultures that look like little pieces of cottage cheese or tiny cauliflower (see photo above). You can buy them online or get some from a friend if you’re lucky enough to know anyone who has some. You can also try to finding a Facebook fermentation group (I belong to one called “Boston Culture Sharing”) to see if people in your area are willing to giving away any for free. Craig’s list is a good resource, too; I’ve sold quite a few starters (sourdough, kombucha, kefir, etc.) there. If you just want to buy online, I suggest either Cultures for Health or the Kefir Lady, which is where I got my grains years ago.
  2. When you get the grains—you’ll probably have about teaspoon or so—place them in a strainer and rinse with filtered water.
  3. Put the rinsed grains in a glass jar and cover with about one cup of pasteurized milk—I use whole, organic, pasteurized milk. DO NOT use ultra-pasteurized milk. It is too “dead” for the grains to ferment.
  4. Cover the jar with a cloth and secure with a rubberband. Allow the jar to sit at room temperature for about 24 hours; you can stir it once or twice if you like but it’s not necessary. The milk will be undergoing fermentation during this time, a safe process that can only happen at room temperature, not in the fridge. Have a little faith in the safety of this—kefir dates back centuries! (Legend has it that Mohammed gave kefir grains to the Orthodox people and taught them how to make kefir. It is still widely consumed today throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.)
  5. You’ll know the kefir is done when the milk doesn’t swish around when you move the jar. It will seem thick toward the top, and you may also see small pockets of whey (clear yellow liquid) start to separate out—that’s a tell-tale sign it’s ready (see first photo in series above). If you see more whey than milk, you have let it ferment a little too long. It is totally safe to consume, but will just be a bit more tangy.
  6. Place a strainer over a large bowl and dump the contents into it. The resulting (strained) liquid is your kefir, and the grains in the strainer are now ready to be used again. Place them back in the (rinsed out) jar, cover with fresh milk, and repeat the process.
  7. Use the strained kefir right away, or refrigerate until needed. It lasts for weeks, if not longer, in the fridge (though it does get more tangy over time, as fermentation slows, but doesn’t stop completely).
  8. For smoothies: Blend kefir + whatever fruit/veg you like in a blender or food processor. I find that the best smoothies always have at least some frozen fruit in them, which makes everything extra thick and creamy once blended. My favorite is 1 frozen banana + 3/4 cup wild frozen blueberries + 2 cups kefir (and sometimes a scoop of this Green Superfood powder). If the mixture looks too thick, just dilute with milk, water, or, my favorite, coconut water.
  9. Consume smoothies immediately, or within a few hours at most. Real kefir is so alive that it will begin feasting on the sugars in the the fruit pretty quickly, so after a few hours, most of the smoothie’s sweetness will be gone. I always drink immediately.

Some Final Notes
–The kefir grains talked about in this post are also known as “milk kefir grains.” They can ferment dairy as well as non-dairy milk (such as coconut milk, which is excellent). “Water kefir grains” are different and are used to culture sugar-water instead of dairy. They can be found online at all of the places listed above. I’ve experimented with them, but prefer kombucha over water kefir in terms of non-dairy, fermented drinks.
–Avoid using any metal utensils or bowls when making kefir, as it can react negatively and produce off-tasting flavors. (A metal strainer is fine since you’re only using it for a minute.)
–Your first batch of kefir may take a bit more time to ferment, as the grains need to adjust and acclimate to your house and the milk you’re using.
–Your grains will grow in size and multiply as you keep using them, and as they do, they will be able to culture larger amounts of milk. A tablespoon of grains can culture at least 2 to 3 cups, sometimes more. If you find you can’t keep up, just give some grains away or discard a bit.
–If your kefir is too strong for your liking, try fermenting for only 12 hours, or add some fresh milk to an over-fermented batch and let things balance out. It takes some experimentation to get it how you like it.

Favorite Kefir Smoothie Flavors
Note that pineapple is the only fruit I’ve found that doesn’t seem to go well with kefir. Everything else is great (especially frozen banana—essential for ultra creaminess!).
♦ frozen banana + fresh or frozen strawberries or cherries + dash of vanilla or almond extract
♦ frozen or fresh banana + ½ really ripe avocado + honey
♦ frozen banana + 1 knob fresh turmeric + juice of one orange + honey (pictured at the top of this post)
♦ frozen mango + strawberries
♦ frozen mango + fresh banana (or vice versa on the fresh/frozen) + juice of one orange
♦ frozen banana + frozen wild blueberries (pictured below)

Kefir Smoothie 3

Eating Habits, Part II

everyday breakfast

[For Part I, click here.]

I’ve always found it interesting to see/hear what people eat in a typical day. I mean, I cannot be the only one who thought that the best part of MTV’s Cribs was seeing what was in the fridge, amIright?

So here’s a quick glimpse at what a typical few days of eating looks like for me. While I’m obviously not as interesting as a celebrity, you may come across one or two things that surprise you (coughcough, Domino’s pizza, coughcough).

I wrote down every.single.thing, and looking back at it, it appears I eat a heck of a lot of food. (Do any of you out there keep a food journal? …because I found it slightly terrifying.) Perhaps I do eat more than others, but it’s important to note that it is all in moderation and I work hard to stop when I’m satisfied, not bursting at the seams. I gauge this by mostly by the fact that I can still happily think and talk about food even once I’ve finished eating. I don’t mean to say that I still feel hungry, but looking at a recipe or a photo of food doesn’t gross me out—if it does, I know I’ve gone overboard. (Try it for yourself next time you’re eating. Can you not even stand the thought of food after finishing your meal? If so, consider stopping a few minutes before you get to that point in the future.) This is a particularly important strategy for me because the majority of my work day is spent dealing with food-related things. It would be a shame to not enjoy that!

A few final notes before we get to it:

  • You will see four days documented here—three weekdays, and one weekend day. I didn’t plan in advance for this. It was just a normal week.
  • I took photos three out of the four days. If you hover over the images, a caption should give a brief description of the food, with detailed info in the text below. Please forgive the bad lighting/poor quality of some of the shots! I snapped these really, really quickly and some were taken with my smudged-up iPhone camera.
  • Any cooking I did was either just for me, or for both Suraj and me. Still, I cook in large batches, usually making enough to serve a family of 3 to 4, so we always have leftovers.
  • Unless otherwise noted with a brand, everything logged is homemade—this includes nut butter, jam, yogurt, kombucha, broth, bread, desserts, etc. As I mentioned in my previous post, I keep my sanity in this regard by making things in big batches well ahead of time, usually on the weekends, and freezing a TON of staple items. I keep track of it all in a digital list (the Evernote app) so I always know what I have, wherever I am. This is particularly helpful in planning meals a day or two ahead (my typical strategy) and making sure nothing gets wasted. Even with a small freezer and limited living space (my jam resides in the linen closet…), it IS possible to set up a system like this.
  • Wherever I could link to the recipe I used, I have.
  • Milk is always organic and whole, as mentioned in my last post.
  • I enjoy a small amount of carbs at every meal (sorry, Paleo people) and have a deep love affair with sourdough. Probably don’t even need to mention that again at this point.
  • There’s quite a bit of repetition/re-using of the same items (in different ways) here. My breakfasts are pretty standard and with a full-time job, lunch is nearly always leftovers reconfigured in some new way. Heck, sometimes dinner is that too. I’m guessing that’s the case for most of us though. Due to a very long commute (1 to 1 1/2 hours each way), I work from home two days a week, so on those days, I can at least make myself a fried egg, for which I am especially grateful.
  • It’s not really represented here, but we do eat out once, sometimes twice, a week (Friday nights guaranteed). Our go-to places are sushi, Sichuan Chinese (authentic, not American Chinese), and a local Mexican place. For lunch out, we either go for Vietnamese pho (soup) or South Indian vegetarian (dosas!). We aren’t really chain-restaurant people, as you can tell. And you already know we like spice.
  • I/We eat late compared to most Americans. Breakfast is around 10 am, when I start to feel hungry, lunch is around 2 pm, and dinner is not until 9:30 pm or later on most nights. This is what works best for us, and why I usually have a snack or two late in the afternoon or early evening. Late dinners are common practice in Europe and India, and most of the world I would guess, just not in the U.S. (I realize that it also helps that we don’t have small kids.)
  • There are more desserts listed here than what we would normally have, as I was doing some volunteer recipe testing for the baking chapter of an Italian cookbook (tough life, I know). When I’m testing stuff, I usually just keep a slice or two for us, then take the rest to work. Instant portion control.
  • I added in what exercise I did each day, as I do think that affects appetite. If there wasn’t so much *#@#! snow outside, there’d be a lot more walking in there, as that’s one of my favorite activities. I workout on weekdays, but not usually on the weekends. As for the yoga, I am impressed with myself that I went twice this particular week, but that was more just a strategy to avoid Boston evening traffic than any real commitment. Going forward, I’ll probably just go one night a week (and grocery shop on the other, if you really want to know).

Okay, on to the food!


Monday

Drive to Work: turmeric tonic (a good detoxifier to start out the morning), diluted with additional water
Breakfast: 1 1/2 small pieces sourdough rye toast (I bought this bread from the Amish months ago and keep it in the freezer at work), Kerrygold butter and 1/4 avocado smashed on top of one piece, and almond butter and jam on the other half // 1 hard-boiled egg // small cup of raspberries and blueberries // black tea with milk and 1 drop of liquid stevia (I use this minimally) // small glass kombucha (about 1/2 cup)
Afternoon Workout (lunch hour): 1-hour barre class
Lunch (packed leftovers; eaten at my desk): lemon rice // sautéed zucchini rounds // sautéed kale and collard greens with onion // 1 hard-boiled egg // 1 clementine // small glass kombucha
Snack: 1 piece fruit & nut chocolate (leftover from recipe testing)
Evening Workout: 1-hour yoga class (very basic—just my speed)
Dinner: roasted chicken (bones saved for broth; leftover meat saved for soup) // roasted broccoli and cauliflower // warm farro salad with cashews, garlic olive oil, and goat cheese (farro is a whole grain; as covered in my last post, it came straight from the freezer; I had previously soaked it overnight, cooked it, then froze it flat in a gallon-size bag; I just chipped off a piece for dinner and warmed it up with the other ingredients) // sauerkraut // glass of Mirassou Cabernet
Other: lots of water and tea, both herbal and black with milk
Supplements: probiotic pill (I don’t take these normally but just want to finish the container leftover from my post-antibiotic regimen) // dash of bitters in my water (this is an age-old practice that helps with digestion after meals; I am working with the company in the link provided on a book, and I love their products)

Tuesday

Drive to Work: turmeric tonic, diluted with additional water
Breakfast: 1 slice sesame sourdough (again, from the freezer), Kerrygold butter and 1/4 avocado smashed on top of one half, and almond butter and jam on the other half // 1 hard-boiled egg // 1 clementine // black tea // small glass kombucha
Afternoon Workout (gym @ lunch hour): 20 minutes stair-climber + 30 minute interval class (bodyweight exercises)
Lunch (packed leftovers; eaten at my desk): 3 small pieces Domino’s pizza (we had ordered this for the Oscars—it’s really the only takeout we get, and we have it just a few times a year, usually for parties, but I unashamedly love it. I probably should have had 2 slices, not 3, but I was starving from the gym) // 1 apple // celery sticks // Joseph’s-brand garlic hummus // small glass kombucha
Evening Workout: 1-hour yoga
Snack: gelatin fruit snacks (loosely based off this recipe)
Dinner: lamb stew with potatoes and carrots (leftover from the weekend) // multigrain sourdough with Kerrygold butter // sauerkraut
Dessert: small slice of ricotta & sour cherry tart (leftover from recipe testing) // small glass of milk
Other: lots of water and tea, both herbal and black with milk // 1 cup coffee with milk and 2 drops liquid stevia
Supplements: probiotic // dash of bitters in my water

Wednesday

[This is my work-from-home day.]
Upon Waking:
warm water with lemon (another good detoxifier)
Breakfast: blueberry sourdough waffle (again, from the freezer) with Trader Joe’s flax-chia peanut butter and Tropical Traditions coconut butter // 1 egg fried in olive oil // 1/3 avocado // Indian-style black tea with milk and 1 teaspoon sugar // small glass kombucha
Lunch: Asian-style chicken noodle soup (before the work day began, I put the leftover roasted chicken bones from Monday, some vegetables scraps, a few peppercorns, and water in a big pot on the stove, and let it simmer all morning. By afternoon, I was able to strain the fresh broth and use it for lunch [and dinner]. I spiked the lunch broth with a dash of soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce, and miso paste, then added the leftover roast chicken meat, thinly sliced onion/garlic/ginger, kale, and a packet of ramen noodles, discarding that flavor/sodium bomb packet thing. I garnished it with scallions and Thai basil, both of which were also leftover from previous meals. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes.) // small cup of yogurt with crushed nuts, dried cherries, and raw honey
Snack: small Starbucks coffee with h&h and sugar (Suraj picked this up for us) + 2 small pieces fruit & nut chocolate (so yeah…that recipe was a total winner…)
Evening Workout: 30 minute swim
Dinner: mussels in garlic-cilantro broth (same base broth mentioned above—there’s a million ways to dress it up!) // leftover sautéed zucchini and roasted cauliflower // multigrain sourdough
Dessert: 2 Lindt sea salt chocolate truffles (my all-time fav chocolate/weakness) + small glass of milk
Other: shot of beet kvass (fermented beet juice, another great, cleansing drink; I will post about it sometime)
Supplements: probiotic // fermented cod liver oil

Weekend (Saturday)

Upon Waking: warm water with lemon
Breakfast: savory Indian pancakes (also known as moong dal cheela—they’re made from soaked lentils and they’re awesome!) with Fage whole-milk Greek yogurt, garlic chutney, ghee, and store-bought Indian pickle // 1/3 avocado // fresh fruit salad // small glass kombucha // Indian-style black tea with milk and 1 teaspoon sugar
Lunch: ribollita soup (I used cooked beans from the freezer, prepared as covered in my last post) // raw-milk cheddar // apple slices
Snacks: one small piece of biscotti (more recipe testing) + cappuccino // kefir smoothie (kefir + frozen banana + strawberries + coconut water)
Dinner: bayou dirty rice (I am trying to eat more liver because it’s so good for you, and this was a great recipe for hiding it in) // shrimp in a tomato-veggie sauce // champagne (a Saturday night staple!)
Dessert: one scoop Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream with peanuts and “magic shell” chocolate sauce (just chocolate and coconut oil, melted down together—we keep a jar of it the fridge and pop it in the microwave for a minute to re-melt, then drizzle on ice cream and it hardens instantly)
Exercise: None, unless you count standing at the stove
Other: oolong tea


So that’s everything! I hope it’s been useful, and that you see that nobody’s perfect—and that that’s not the goal. Build on what you can do, and go from there. Maybe you start out following the 50/50 rule (eat your best half the time, let the other half slide), then go for 60/40 the next week. Remember that whatever you can do is a step in the right direction!