Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kamut Berries, Brussels Sprouts, and Other Culinary Adventures

First of all, did you know what I formerly knew as "brussel sprouts" are actually the always-plural "Brussels Sprout?" I did not! Google just told me. I declared google to be false, checked all the recipes I read on our drive to and from Colorado that involved this sprout and discovered, to my genuine shock, that it read "Brussels sprouts" in every one of them. I have been wrong my whole life. So wrong that I deliberately read them wrong over and over again. This is like when I discovered reindeer are real animals while talking to the reindeer handler at the Dallas Arboretum two Christmases ago. I kept trying to get him to tell me what the reindeer really was. Like, dude, I'm in on the secret. I know Santa isn't real and I'm just trying to figure out what kind of animal you have behind you wearing all those bells. "It's a reindeer ma'am." We did that about four times. He probably knew it was Brussels sprouts too.


But what IS it?"

In another moment of breathtaking genius, I decided to make three brand new recipes from scratch for dinner Monday night. I did something wrong to all of them, resulting in three totally mediocre components to a meal that took me three hours and a near paycheck's worth of organic ingredients to make. My big moment of redemption was supposed to come on Tuesday when I revealed the amazing chicken broth I was going to brew overnight in the crockpot with my whole roasted organic chicken carcass, big chunks of onion, carrot, and celery, fresh herbs, and lots of water. But when I came out Tuesday morning to smile beatifically over my concoction I found it cold and congealy because I never plugged the freaking crockpot in. So into the trash everything went, along with my tears, and what might as well have just been the money I could have spent on the new pair of snow boots I wanted.

But I remain undaunted in my New Year's Quest. I am cooking new things and they are going to be amazing! Or some of them will. It's going to be an adventure.


new books!

My cooking and our eating have been a long evolution. We've eaten dinner as a family every night since Landon turned 1, but my approach cooking has changed drastically over the years. In Chicago, recipe blogs weren't a thing yet, so my newly married self stumbled through some simple childhood favorites, casseroles full of cream-of-whatever soups, and a lot of frozen stuff from Trader Joe's. We didn't have any money and we never ever threw away a single thing without at least trying to make something edible with it. I remember making a bean stew that cost about $5 with all our leftover canned goods and eating it for 5 days straight. I had never heard of quinoa, but we were vegetarians much of the time because chicken was the most expensive thing I bought at the grocery store and I generally avoided it. Food was about enjoyment when we treated ourselves to a meal out and survival at home. I didn't put a lot of thought in to it.

In Austin it was all about what was fast. We didn't get home from work until 6:30, with 1-2 hungry kids in tow, so whoever got there first started cooking. We ate a ton of pasta, anything we could make in advance over the weekend, and once I got over the cost, we got a lot of prepared meals from local delivery services. I had now heard of quinoa, but I pronounced it wrong and didn't really know what it was. I didn't exercise, ever, though James still swam daily. I was getting more adventurous about recipes and starting to really enjoy the process of chopping and cooking, but only on the weekends when I had time.

And then we came to Fort Worth and I found myself in a job that let me be home with the kids by 5:30. Suddenly, as food shows and recipe blogs were everywhere, I had time to (try to!) cook whatever I wanted. So we started to get more creative. I didn't eat meat for most of college, and James has a terrifying family history of heart disease (no man has made it to 50 without a heart attack, and no man has made it to 70 ever; both his paternal grandparents died of heart attacks before he was born), so he's always been eager for heart healthy vegetarian meals mixed in with meatier dishes. I finally tackled quinoa and it's a staple ingredient in two of our family's favorite meals (Southwestern BBQ Quinoa Salad and Greek Quinoa Salad). The kids are older and don't need anything hands-on in the evening; we lost a wall of our kitchen so I can see them and chat with them while I cook and simmer. Cooking has truly become a fun hobby and enjoyable task. I know someday they'll have more activities and my precious evening time will get scattered, so I'm trying to savor it now. James coaches every night and gets home about 7, so I have everything ready to go and we sit down to eat the minute he steps in the door. He does all the breakfasts and packs lunches, two chores I strongly dislike, so it balances out perfectly.


But now I'm trying to branch out some more. I still need recipes. I'm not a good chef- I'm not a chef at all- but I'm an excellent follower of directions. Because of this, I rely more on one pot meals than I really want to. I love them, but I wouldn't mind a few nights of a protein + seasoning or sauce with veggies and grains on the side. But I don't know how to cook a protein just on it's own, so I rarely go that route. This is one of my goals in 2017. Conquer the chicken. Be the beef. Slay the salmon. Pump up the pork (if we ate it, which we don't).


Quell the Quinoa!

(Pictured because I FINALLY found a pre-rinsed quinoa available in large quantity for a reasonable price - Costco, of course.)

My other goal is to find more recipes with fuel-rich, energy-giving ingredients that are "light" in that they are not rich or heavy, but that aren't also too light in calories. No one is trying to lose weight; in fact James is constantly eating to keep it on, and I'm now a bona fide worker-outer, so I struggle to find recipes that are the kind of "light" we're looking for- more of a personal preference in whole food preparation than any kind of dieting plan.

On shu's recommendation, I bought "Run Fast, Eat Slow" which I greatly enjoyed and was the source of my three mediocre meal extravaganza on Monday (totally not the book's fault). Tonight I made their Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro and Lemon Miso Dressing and it was AMAZING. James devoured it and then ate all the leftovers I'd stored in the fridge. The farro was such a delicious addition to the salad- chewy and hearty while providing the extra much-needed calories to an otherwise pretty light and definitely very healthy salad. I'd never thought to add a grain like that to a salad before, and that's exactly the kind of recipe I'm searching for now. If anyone else has that book has any favorite recipes, let me know what I should make next.

In a separate "new year" type venture, we're on a credit card crash diet for the month (2 vacations + Christmas in 6 weeks was a bit much, even if they were all carefully planned, saved for, and within budget; my credit card is just tired and wants to be left alone), so I've planned all our meals for the whole next month (NO restaurants, except a date night here and there, because marriage is important. and also sushi) and unsubscribed from all store emails. There will be emergencies, but there will be no discretionary spending. James never buys anything or cares that I buy everything, so he doesn't even know we're on a diet, but I am COMMITTED. Today was Day 1 of the new credit card cycle. It ends February 10th, conveniently before Valentine's Day and my birthday, because let's not be ridiculous.


never ridiculous

This week's menu:

Monday: Whole roasted chicken, Zucchini quinotto (like risotto, but with quinoa and a bunch of grated zucchini; I love the idea, but didn't find this one to have enough flavor; this could have been my fault and I want to try again, but with more stuff added in), Roasted BRUSSELS sprouts, Costco's seeded wheat bread. All from Eat Fast, Run Slow; all will be made again, just in a more informed manner than I made them the first time.

Tuesday: Whole wheat pasta (another change going forward!) and Bolognese sauce. The sauce was really good (I omitted the bacon step and the ground pork, using 1.3 lbs. of organic ground beef from those magical Costco packages I always have in the freezer), one of the best bolognese's I've found so far, but I did not read the part that said simmer 2-4 hours in advance so we simmered for 30 mins. It was still awesome and I look forward to finding out what 4 hours will do.

Wednesday: BBQ quinoa salad! A family classic, this time with leftover chicken from Monday's roasted chicken, chopped and tossed in a little bbq sauce.


Thursday: Grilled tuna steak, Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro (and an amazing Lemon Miso Dressing that had me searching "what is white miso paste" on google; for the salad I used a bagged blend of shaved kale, radicchio, brussels sprouts, and broccoli from Trader Joe's because it was easy, and I subbed out the walnuts for toasted cashews because I hate walnuts and love cashews), whole grain bread.

Friday: leftover pasta bolognese

If you have any favorite recipes, books, or blogs in the "healthy and hearty but not heavy" long-worded-vein of what I'm looking for above (or something I don't even know I'm looking for!), let me know! It's a year of new things. Brussels sprouts yesterday, farro today, Kamut berries in our breakfast tomorrow. Who knows what madness next week will bring.

55 comments:

  1. Kale bowls! Not nearly depressing as they sound.

    Take a bowl: add quinoa, and then add a bed of massaged kale (shredded kale + olive oil + lemon + salt + 2 minute massage). This is your base -- on top of that, you can go Mexican (roasted peppers + beans + guac + pico), Mediterranean (tomatoes + cucumbers + olives + feta), Asian (you get the idea). Or sometimes: here are 4 random veggies we had in the fridge that I roasted and put on top. Can also add a sauce on top -- hot sauce, salad dressing, whatev. Can be eaten hot or cold. Picky eaters can build their own. Endless possibilities and everyone eats lots of veggies and it can clean out the fridge.

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    1. Those sound wonderful! And I laughed out loud at your first sentence when I read this in bed last night.

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  2. Do you not eat pork or bacon ever? If no, is it because of health or taste or another reason? I ask because my hubby said he didn't like pork when we were first eating together but it was because his mom is a terrible cook and he'd only had dry and/or chewy tasteless chops.

    And my cooking evolution was similar, although protein as a standalone has always been a component. Will have to think about which specific recipes you might enjoy but want to recommend Mark Bittman. He has a couple books How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Fast that I like for technique as well as approach. And I've enjoyed the end results too! One of my favorite ways to sample cookbooks is via the library. I also really like the cookbooks from America's Test Kitchen and Cooks Country. Also solid on technique and results are always tasty.

    Do y'all like soup? Especially this time of year, we're big on soup + salad combo, sometimes with a bread included.

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    1. We aren't totally anti-pork, but neither of us are big fans of sausage or bacon (too strong a taste? high aversion to visible fat? I don't mind bacon when it's cooked really well done) or have ever had a pork chop we liked (it's the texture, though I well admit that could be user error; I even made a recipe titled "this will make you love pork chops" and it... didn't). I will on occasion make a grilled pork tenderloin or pulled pork and we like that, but not as much as I like a grilled steak or pulled chicken. So not totally anti-pork, but neither of us have ever voluntarily ordered it in a restaurant and I rarely choose to cook it. If you have something that will sway me, I'm all ears!

      A friend just recommended How to Cook Everything to me yesterday! It's now on my Amazon list to purchase after my credit card fast. I've made some great America's Test Kitchen recipes online, I didn't even think to check for a book.

      And I LOVE SOUP. Love it. We're always soup + bread, but I'm going to try to do more soup + hearty grain. James needs so much filler to get enough calories - like whole loaf of bread with a really hearty soup, so my goal is to make that filler more nutritious. He still needs about 5,000 calories a day, but it doesn't have to just be throw-away white grain bread or vats of pasta. And that's where the East Fast, Run Slow book has been really helpful. The authors are marathon runners, one an Olympic medalist and fastest US woman ever, so they talk a lot about how to get enough fuel without resorting to just tons of white carbs.

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  3. If you were disappointed with your roasted chicken, here are two recipes that have never let me down. With 5 people, you might need to roast two chickens, since smaller birds roast more evenly and end up tastier (and all the bones will make your stock even more delicious!) I made three Zuni chickens for family Christmas one year, and it was perfectly doable, and not really harder than making one.

    First, Marcella Hazan's Chicken with Two Lemons: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015182-marcella-hazans-roast-chicken-with-lemons

    Notes: don't worry about washing it (current kitchen wisdom is that that just spreads bacteria), but do make sure it's dry before putting it in the oven, and don't worry about trussing the chicken. If you have a skewer or two to hold it closed and keep the lemons inside, that's good enough. Leave the "arresting presentation" for the restaurant (or if the kids are interested in trying to make a puffed-up chicken).

    Second, Zuni Chicken (first in my heart, but the recipe looks scarier to a newbie): http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/zuni-roast-chicken-with-bread-salad-56389456

    You can use the dry-brining technique with other recipes too, and it's great. You don't always have to make the bread salad with it, but it *is* delicious. That part of the recipe sound kind of "fiddly," but let me try to relieve your stress based on my past experiences: Don't worry about having both red and white wine vinegar -- it doesn't matter. Don't worry about cutting off all the crust (but perhaps cut off some of it if it's super-crusty). Don't worry if you accidentally bought sourdough bread. Don't worry about putting the bread salad in the oven at the end if you forgot or there's no room in the oven. Feel free to do the toasting of the bread in the toaster oven, if you have one. Feel free to sub Craisins for currants (I usually do).

    I love the recipes you've posted in the past years, so thanks, and I hope these work out for you! If I think of anything else perfect, I'll post again.

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    1. Oh fun! I've never made a bread salad, but have always been intrigued. I've made Ina Garten's roast chicken and loved it, and the chicken I made Monday was totally fine, I just let it cook too long because I got distracted by the never-finished quinotto. I just shouldn't have done three brand new things on the same night. The chicken was the least troublesome. I do have one more beautiful organic whole bird from Costco waiting for me in the freezer, so I'd love to try one of yours! It was very rewarding to cut into the bird and know I'd made it instead of the rotisserie wheel at our grocery store (not that I won't still indulge there; so easy, so weeknight meal friendly).

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  4. This is amazing, and I truly mean it. We serve with a lot of snack foods - hummus, pita bread, olives, feta, radishes...

    http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017161-oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

    Google Korean Beef. It's really good too.

    Mississippi Pot Roast is delicious. I halve the butter. Mashed potatoes & green beans round it out perfectly.

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    1. Awesome!! I will - I stocked up on organic chicken breasts, thighs, whole chicken, ground beef, and ground turkey at Costco, so now I'm just looking for stuff to do with it :). All of those sound great.

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  5. Here's the pot roast. It's truly perfect! Don't add any extra salt, because it's salty as is. I add LOTS of pepperocinis and juice.

    http://belleofthekitchen.com/2016/04/13/mississippi-pot-roast/

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    1. I have never heard of Mississippi Pot Roast, but the picture looks incredible.

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  6. Another one we love is a crockpot staple - chicken thighs (I buy boneless & skinless thighs) and dump a jar of salsa verde over them. Cook on low all day. Come home, make rice, shred the chicken and open up black beans, corn, dice up tomatoes and avocado and grate some cheese and we make giant burrito bowls. It's a huge hit with all 4 of our kids (all recipes I give you pass the 4 kid test here, ages 7, 4 and 2.5 year old twins).

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    1. I have never cooked chicken thighs, but Eat Fast Run Slow told me I need to, so I've bought some and am waiting for a recipe. This sounds perfect for next week!

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    2. Can vouch for this recipe! Add beer or chicken stock to add flavor to the chicken.

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  7. So virtuous! Well, this will be good; I'm doing the Whole Life Challenge with my sister this month so I'll be looking for similar recipes (but no grains and no cheese, sob!!)... just please tell me you'll still give your kids TJ's Spaghetti-Oh's once in a great while, so I will feel better about myself. ;) Love your menus! Have fun!

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    1. Oh great! And absolutely; they're a back-up pantry staple! We have a date night planned for next Saturday night and I can assure you the kids will be eating TJ's finest O's.

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  8. I keep a note in Evernote called recipes and throw everything I find throughout the day on there, so that when I'm looking for inspiration I just open the note and scan for something tempting.

    A couple of my favorite recipes for fairly straightforward and filling weeknight dinners are:
    http://markbittman.com/zucchini-risotto/ - definitely add the fried egg
    http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pasta-with-chorizo-and-chickpeas
    http://youmissarenolady.blogspot.ca/2011/01/cheesy-chili_20.html (This is a Nigella Lawson recipe from KITCHEN, make some cornbread and you're golden)

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    1. Oh that was the other thing I meant to ask in the post -- how do people organize all their scattered recipes! I'm constantly finding and making new things, loving them, and then never finding them again. I save them to internet folders, but they're now so full it's as if I didn't save them at all. If it wasn't for my own blog I'd never know what I cooked. I may have to try Evernote.

      And all those sound really good!

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    2. Pinterest! I pin every recipe so I don't have to worry about losing them if something happens to my computer.

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    3. I use a Google Drive folder for recipes, which I LOVE because it's so easily searchable. It took a bit of time to set up originally because I had recipes saved all over the place and on paper, but now each recipe is in its own doc in the folder and it's super easy.

      I use Pinterest for recipes that I haven't yet tried and, this is important, DELETE each recipe from Pinterest after trying it to keep that board under control. (If we liked the recipe, I copy and paste all the info in a google doc before deleting the pin. If we didn't like it, just plain delete.)

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  9. I share your favouring of one-pot meals - I am trying really hard to diversify too! I am a big fan of the skinnytaste recipes - her maple-glazed salmon is great and really easy, and I think it's great w/some roasted veggies as a side (cauliflower, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts) - just throw them in a little bit before you put the salmon in. The other thing I tried recently that was great was smitten kitchen's sheet pan chicken tikka - so delicious! Fairly spicy, so you might want to dial it down a little bit for the kids!

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    1. Oh, and skinnytaste's chicken taco chilli and Korean beef bowls are also really great (with a side of stirfried veg, often) are both really great (and easy!)

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  10. I would strongly recommend a subscription to Cooking Light (I like how they approach food: real ingredients with proper proportions rather than fat free "fake" food), the Barefoot Contessa "Back to Basics" cookbook and the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Cooking Light recipes feature heavily in our weeknight rotation, and BC and SK are well written recipes for when you have a little more time to stop and enjoy the steps.

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  11. Here are a few of our family staples:

    1. BBQ chicken thighs with roasted asparagus and sweet potato. For this, I start the asparagus first at 425 degrees after tossing with olive oil, minced garlic (from a jar) and salt. Then take boneless, skinless chicken thighs and season both sides with salt and pepper and then dump some BBQ sauce (we use Sweet Baby Ray's) and rub all over both sides. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 425. For the sweet potatoes I usually do frozen sweet potato fries and just throw those on a pan and bake with the chicken and asparagus, but sometimes I do whole sweet potato which just needs longer to cook so put that in first.

    Lemon pepper chicken: I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this. First, melt some butter and brush over the chicken, then season with salt and lemon pepper. Add sliced lemons on top and squeeze some lemon juice over everything. Then bake in the oven at 450 for 15-18 minutes. I do a veggie with this, either asparagus if we haven't already had it that week, sautéed zucchini, or a mix of roasted veggies (purple onion is really good cut into chunks and roasted along with carrot, potato, zucchini, etc.) I usually make brown rice to go along with this but you could do whatever grain you like.

    And because we are from New Mexico, we eat either Frito Pie or red chile enchiladas at least once a week. I do the Frito Pie with ground turkey, pinto beans cooked in the crock pot, homemade red chile and lots of lettuce, tomato, and onion on top. I feel like that makes it more like a salad so it's healthy (just kidding!)

    Also kind of weird but my kids love zucchini noodles! They think it's neat to get a big, long spiral so we have been doing a mix of those with whole wheat spaghetti.

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  12. Oooh yay - I am finally coming out of baby fog and a New Year's resolution is to try at least one NEW recipe every week - some of these are very inspirational (as a vegetarian married to a meat-eater with a theoretically-omnivorous-but-practically-vegetarian baby).

    You may have seen one or both of these, but they are some of my FAVORITE actual recipes - decent amount of prep for both but mostly one-pot once everything is cut up:

    Quinoa, sweet potato and black bean "chili": https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0ahUKEwj1sNaerb_RAhXG6IMKHSCIDXcQFgg0MAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thekitchn.com%2Fvegetarian-recipe-black-bean-sweet-potato-and-quinoa-chili-166739&usg=AFQjCNH_0JN4x9mWfLurE2WFU0i-Ff_3og&sig2=pQYIsZShePa55aykYz5Y7w&bvm=bv.144224172,d.amc

    One Pan Orecchiette w/Chickpeas & Olives: https://theyoungrens.com/blog/casa_de_youngren/recipe-sunday/one-pan-orecchiette-w-chickpeas-olives/

    PS back when I was less of a strict vegetarian and poor in law school, we used to use chicken thighs all the time to fake that delicious mall food court "Japanese" chicken - just chicken thighs, TJ's soyaki, and their carrot/cabbage pre-mixed bag with rice - SO GOOD, and so easy!

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  13. The whole30 cookbook is great even if you aren't doing whole30. Everything has been pretty easy and delicious and the pictures are motivating! It's a good mix of lighter (salad type) and hearty (soups, stews) and also has a good variety of different ethnic flavors. If you aren't doing whole30, you could easily add rice/pastas to the recipes.

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  14. My family loves this soup:
    http://damndelicious.net/2014/05/17/olive-garden-pasta-e-fagioli/

    I typically throw this in the crockpot in the morning before I leave for work and then just cook up the pasta right before we eat. I will say that it's AMAZINGLY GOOD when you take the time to saute the sausage and mirepoix before you put it in the crockpot, but I rarely take the time to do that and it's still really good. I don't typically love italian sausage, but I think it's actually really good in this soup. Mixed in with all the other ingredients, it's not to "sausagey" tasting and it adds a nice depth of flavor that ground beef wouldn't. Depending what we have on hand I also add some grated zucchini or baby spinach about 30 minutes before we eat for some added veggies. It doesn't change the flavor at all.

    My kids are less thrilled with this recipes, but it's one of my favorites and I would eat it way more often if my children didn't act like I'm the worst mommy ever every time I make it!

    http://www.everyday-reading.com/2015/02/chicken-pitas-with-whipped-jalapeno-feta.html

    I will say the recipe has a lot of components and is a little fiddly. However, I was able to streamline a few things based on our personal preferences/what we care about and it's now a totally doable weeknight meal -- I don't do the chicken marinade, just season and cook. I buy taziki from Trader Joes instead of making it (it's not quite as good, but for a weeknight dinner, it's fine!) and I use jarred jalapenos instead of roasting a fresh one. Do make the jalapeno feta whip--it's SO good. We also add kalamata olives--mostly because I think everything is better with kalamatas!

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  15. I like the blog Iowa Girl Eats for recipes. She had some gluten issues after her son was born so it is now gluten free, but the archives have glutenfull(??) recipes.

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    1. Seconding IGE (specifically the glutenfull! recipes) and also suggesting Budget Bytes. Because almost all of her recipes are pretty inexpensive they are often very light on the red meat. Also, her site is really well organized and you can search by ingredient or style of cuisine.

      Budget Bytes is also very photo-heavy and as a result I've learned how to do lots of kitchen things from following her site.

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  16. If you like salads with substance, I recommend Salad Samurai. It's vegan, but not in the way where they just try to substitute with fake meat products. Instead, they understand that vegetables are delicious. You'll learn so much more about miso paste. ;-)

    https://www.amazon.com/Salad-Samurai-Cutting-Edge-Easy-Make/dp/0738214876/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484324263&sr=8-1&keywords=salad+samari

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  17. I'd highly recommend The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, which is just beautifully written and will change how you approach food and food prep. But because I live in the real world with two small kids in NYC where food shopping is a fucking nightmare, I've recently signed up for Hello Fresh. I personally HATE meal planning (which the Everlasting Meal is NOT about - it's a totally different approach to food and eating - read it!) but we were getting in continual ruts and I LOVE 1) not having to plan, 2) not having to shop* and 3) getting varied healthy whole food meals that are always different every week. And I think it comes out about the same cost-wise if I were to shop myself. The recipes are less complicated than Blue Apron (tried for two weeks then cancelled) and I'm more likely to redo the recipes myself if I had to, but I never have to because I just keep ordering more boxes :).

    * I do some minimal shopping obviously for other meals and school lunches, etc, and to supplement the boxes for the kids to eat with us - instead of ordering more food in the box, I just get some extra protein/carbs (you get the recipe the week before the box arrives, so you have time) to supplement, and it works well. Not a shill for the company, just a happy customer who was serving pasta to her family 4-5x a week and not feeling totally awful about it because you did too at one point. Here's hoping in a few years I can get back to working out as well! :)

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  18. Have a look at Alice Waters' the Art of Simple Food. That has great, detailed instructions for just how to cook things deliciously.

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  19. Feast is a great vegetarian recipe book focused on real food and real flavor. Most of the recipes are on the lighter side, but the author is not concerned about calorie counting. Love the eggplant parmesan recipe and also the artichoke and quinoa enchiladas. I highly recommend it as a purchase.

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  20. Soup is always a solid win in our house. We just got an Instant Pot, so are exploring more of those recipes but all of them can be made without a pressure cooker for sure.
    A few quinoa recipes you might like: http://www.pressurecookingtoday.com/thai-quinoa-edamame-salad/, https://onceamonthmeals.com/recipes/gluten-free-dairy-free-thai-peanut-salad/ (especially LOVE the second one for work lunches)

    Soup faves: African Peanut Soup - this recipe sounded strange to me but godDAMN it's good https://relishingit.com/2011/10/20/african-peanut-soup/ (ours looked nothing like that - we used kale instead of spinach too and ours seemed thicker)

    Chicken wild rice: http://wegotfed.com/2012/01/chicken-wild-rice-soup-and-honey-yeast-rolls/ (this is my own blog, lots of recipes on there that we love)

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  21. My best purchase last year was Julia Turshen's Small Victories. It is awesome and I use it weekly. I bought it for my sister as well and she is a fan too.

    I love Sprouted Kitchen: these are on regular rotation
    http://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2014/12/17/marrakesh-carrot-salad-book-pre-order.html
    http://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2016/9/20/mushroom-black-bean-tacos-with-cilantro-blender-sauce (the cilantro sauce is awesome)
    http://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2013/1/10/squash-goat-cheese-empanadas.html

    I also love Smitten Kitchen: sheet pan chicken tikka and the piri piri chicken.

    I save recipes that catch my eye on feedly and also have a food52 account and a google doc!

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  22. Do you guys grill at all? Our go-to staple in this house is white rice and grilled chicken thighs/breasts/salmon/tofu. Just salt or add pepper/squeeze lime at the end. We make roasted sweet potato "fries" in the oven and add a Caesar salad or other sauteed veggies like zucchini or mushrooms. We usu. cook once, eat at least twice.

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  23. Hi! New reader here ( through SUH who I love and been reading since my residency days) and we JUST MOVED from Fort Worth to Atlanta. Talk about bad timing... anyway just wanted to say I think you are hilarious and awesome. I enjoy reading you and find you very relatable. I wish I could have met you in my Texas days but I don't really miss Ft. Worth at all (other than my long runs over beautiful trinity river). That cooking book by Shalane Flanagan is THE BEST.
    As a runner that barely cooks, I find the recipes easy to make while supporting my nutritional needs. WIN-WIN. Now cooking for my very picky 4yo is a totally different thing.

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  24. (1) This approach to cooking salmon is the easiest I've found (and any spices/flavors can be added). 250 degree oven, 30 min. No worries about overcooking, comes out great. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/06/slow-cooked-salmon-with-ginger-garlic-recipe.html

    (2) Love recipes on SmittenKitchen.

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  25. Hi!

    I am a new reader but I love your blog! I have also been trying to cook healthy, flavorful vegetable heavy meals. I highly recommend checking out the following cook books:
    Plenty and Jerusalem (Sooo many great flavorful vegetarian recipes. They do require a time commitment and a lot of spices but I have been really pleased with the results.)
    Dinner a Love Story (she also has a blog that is great!)
    Thug Kitchen (a little annoying at times but really great heathy vegan food)

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  26. I'll agree completely with the recommendations for Smitten Kitchen. Her recipes are great.

    Are you egg eaters? This asparagus frittata is tasty and a family favorite (https://www.plantoeat.com/recipes/450095/); I'll serve it with a green salad. Please note, the recipe is meant for batch cooking so you can divide into multiple freezer bags and store for when you need it.

    On the Brussels thing - they are named after Brussels, Belgium so that explains the plural and the capitol letter.

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  27. I love this take on panzanella salad made with farro instead: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/massimos-farinella-13223
    And like others here I also recommend almost anything Smitten Kitchen makes!

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  28. I'm a fan of Anna Jones's cookbook, A Modern Way to Cook (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0399578420/). It's vegetarian, but she also does a good job of coming up with great flavor combinations and satisfying ingredients.

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  29. Hey I'm going to be heading your way for a conference in March. We should meet up! Also did you know it is actually German's chocolate cake and not German chocolate cake? Things I learned way too late. :)

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  30. I was terrible (no really awful) at cooking meat until I started using an instant read thermometer (and Google to tell me what temp to aim for haha) - I can't recommend one enough. Annie's Eats and Smitten Kitchen are my favorite food blogs. Both have lots of hearty vegetarian meals. I've made about 90% of the recipes in Deb/Smitten Kitchen's first cookbook and I'm pretty much counting down until her second one is released. Plus she's a super thorough and practical instruction-giver. The other cookbook on my wish list is Amerca's Test Kitchen's Complete Vegetarian Cookbook - I've heard nothing but rave reviews.

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  31. I have both Gina's cookbooks and I've loved every single thing I've tried for them! Like you, cooking has evolved from something that has to be done to save money to an activity that I enjoy and look forward to after a long day at work. Enjoy!

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  32. Look into buying a sous vide - it's a metal contraption you submerge into a big pot of water. Put your vacuum sealed meat in, set the temperature, and walk away. The meat is cooked perfectly every time, no joke. It's like magic. We have the ANOVA brand and love it; we got my boyfriend's parents the newest model which has Bluetooth - his stepdad turned it on from work with his phone! We usually buy a ton of meat from Costco, have a vacuum sealing party, and are good for at least three weeks. You can also cook other things in it, though we haven't done it yet. Cannot recommend it enough!

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  33. Thank you, this was the best and I'm following some of the comments too. Here is my go-to for a chicken recipe (it comes from a Denise Austin book): Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a glass baking container, put 4-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I get mine from Central Market and I recommend using them. Cover the breasts with a can of diced tomatoes. I use the Italian one. For 8 chicken breasts, I use 3 cans, but I like tomatoes. You can cut up tomatoes also. Then sprinkle Parmesan Cheese over it and put in the over for 40 minutes. Then, add mozzarella cheese or your preferred cheese and put back in for 5 minutes. Then you are done.

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  34. My favorite protein + starch + veg dinner is salmon, roasted sweet potatoes, and sautéed greens. We buy frozen wild salmon fillets from Wild Alaska Direct. They're not cheap, but much more economical than buying wild salmon in the grocery store, especially if you get the 10-pound box. I peel and chop the sweet potatoes into chunks, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 400 for 40 minutes or so. While potatoes are in the oven, I wash and chop kale/chard/spinach and then sautee that with garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil. The salmon filets I salt and paper, then sauté in olive oil, about 3 minutes to a side. They cook really fast. Serve with lemon. This meal is even faster if you prep the sweet potato chunks the night before.

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  35. Oh, and this recipe is AMAZING. http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017161-oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma
    I don't bother with the quartered red onion. Other than that, I follow the recipe. It's so, so, so delicious. And you can serve it with whatever you like--salad, tzatziki, olives, feta, etc. We usually make a chopped greekish/middle easternish salad with cucumbers and tomatoes as the base and then have toasted pitas or Georgian tandoor bread from a place down the street, but it would be great with rice, too.

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  36. I am committed to America's Test Kitchen. Their TV show annoys me, but I love the cookbooks because--if you can follow the directions to the last detail, and I know you can!--results are reliably excellent. So excellent that I do not hesitate to try a new recipe when I'm cooking for company. I use their Cooking for Two compendium because I'm trying to avoid food waste in my household of one. My mother never taught me how to cook (and she strongly disliked cooking) so I love all of the detailed technique notes and their discussions of the results of their kitchen tests.

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  37. Herbivoracious is a great veg cook book. I love their chickpea feta salad to which I also add farro for a complete meal. I think he's got a blog as well.

    Have you tried your pressure cooker yet? We are mostly veg and eat a lot of plant based proteins (beans and lentils) so the pressure cooker is great. Canned beans now seem pretty bland and soggy once you start cooking from dried beans.

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  38. I second the mention of America's Test Kitchen, particularly this book, which has been a life changer over the past few months: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NMZ3840/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1.

    I am also a lawyer and do a fair amount of cooking/food prep on the weekends. I usually do one slow cooker recipe every week and a half or so, some quick-cooking meals (no more than 30 min), and some leftovers from some meat I cook on the weekends. Also, although I read a number of food blogs, this is a favorite: http://www.wellplated.com/. Enjoy! Cooking is such a great stress release and fun hobby - with near immediate gratification. :-)

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  39. Do you have any breakfast ideas? My kids aren't that interested in eating breakfast and there's only so many times we can have eggs. What about lunches? It seems like every other kid eats raw veggies for lunch, mine won't. What are you guys packing for lunch that is actually being eaten and not tossed?

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    1. Breakfast -- breakfast sausage sauteed with diced peppers and onions, served in a soft tortilla with shredded cheese. You can make a big batch of the filling and divide into smaller batches, and freeze what you won't use soon. Then reheat a small bowl of the filling in the morning to make a single serving. Basically it's a breakfast burrito minus the egg, which I came up with for my daughter who hates eggs but needs a big breakfast!.

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  40. Hi! On the lookout for a new blender/food processor. Can I ask what kind do you use? (Saw it in one of your food prep photos above) Are you happy with it? The size looks great.

    Thanks!
    Madelyn

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    1. We have this one. It was pretty inexpensive ($33). We've had it a year and it seems to be working great- it fits in my bottom cabinet, is light (which is nice bc I don't leave it out), and has little sticky feet that grip the counter.

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