Tag Archives: eat more veggies

More Pumpkin in Review: The Pies Have It!

Gentle Readers, it is with great relief that I’m winding up this personal pumpkin challenge. To be frank, I almost wept openly in Trader Joe’s when I saw the number of pumpkin items yet untried, mainly in the frozen dessert aisle.

The cutest pumpkins ever. Clementines with an apple stem. One more pumpkin and I'll scream like those bananas though.

The cutest pumpkins ever. Clementines with an apple stem. One more pumpkin and I’ll scream like those bananas though.

But enough is enough–why do I need to buy pumpkin bread pudding when I’m more than capable of making my own? In spite of the toll my real life schedule takes on my cooking time (and my blogging time for that matter), every day that I cook something from scratch, or simply feed myself and TPCs Jr, feels like a victory.

Almost from scratch pumpkin pie. Hold the Cool Whip please.

Almost from scratch pumpkin pie. Hold the Cool Whip please.

So making a pumpkin pie from “scratch” (air quotes to honor the Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust deployed into this fight) seems worthy of a ticker tape celebration. I even served it with Pumpkin Ravioli. Thus the pumpkin tales end where they began.

Three More Favorite Pumpkin Things:

1. Pumpkin Ravioli. These are actually good, though the batch we had was less than smooth in the filling of a few of them. Serve with a simple brown butter and sage sauce–melt butter, fry sage, toss with cooked pasta, call it gourmet. This is a family favorite, worthy of serving special guests.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage--Nom!

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage–Nom!

2. Pumpkin Pancakes. Still the house favorite, using the Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle mix as a starter, we often add ground flaxseed, applesauce, almond meal, and/or chopped walnuts. It’s very flexible, have at it. On rare occasions, we add chocolate chips. I still don’t like them in my pancakes, judge me if you will.

World's Largest Pumpkin Pancake. I totally flipped it midair, no spatula. #win

World’s Largest Pumpkin Pancake. I totally flipped it midair, no spatula. #win

3. Pumpkin Pie. I made the recipe from the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can, a time-honored approach. I swapped in the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice, which I adore, and used the aforementioned frozen crust, also from TJ’s. I know it’s got no trans fats in it, but I found it a bit doughy and brittle, and that’s not just operator error. It’s crust in the end, so it’s still good, but apparently I like a little more trans fat in my pie crusts.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice: With Cardamom and Lemon Peel, I Love This Stuff

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice: With Cardamom and Lemon Peel, I Love This Stuff

Honorable Mentions:

  • Pumpkin Toaster Pastries. Not my favorite, but TPCs Jr gave these a thumbs up as a seasonal travel food.
  • Pumpkin Bars. Not a bad entry, bordering on the dessert category.
  • Pumpkin Biscotti. These were also not bad, but having made my own, I’m now permanently spoiled.
  • Pumpkin Blondies. Okay, but I didn’t really see the point here.
  • Pumpkin Loaf Bread Mix. Again, a pretty strong contender, but quick breads aren’t hard to make from scratch, and you have more control over the flavor profile. Secretly, I still greatly prefer Starbucks Pumpkin Bread. It’s the seeds I tell you!
  • Pumpkin Butter. A nice side with apples or the Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps.
So much pumpkin at Trader Joe's: butter and mix and decorative gourds oh my!

So much pumpkin at Trader Joe’s: butter and mix and decorative gourds oh my!

And thus ends my pumpkin journey. I’m now heading into Thanksgiving season with a healthy portion of condensed soups and fried onions from my favorite alternative grocery store. It’s casserole and stuffing season, and I’ll pay allegiance to other winter squashes henceforth. Acorn and Delicata, I’ve missed you.

What’s your favorite of the pumpkin products? Send a Tweet or comment below! The pumpkin polls are open!

Until next year, leaving the largess of pumpkin behind. TPCs Jr celebrate the overlarge veggies at N.C. State Fair!

Until next year, leaving the largess of pumpkin behind. TPCs Jr celebrate the overlarge veggies at N.C. State Fair!

Send your Cool Whip, maple syrup, and spooky thoughts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: Casserole Edition!

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Road Salad: A How-To-Survive Guide for Eating While Traveling

Gentle Readers, it’s a good thing I love my job and the travel that goes with it, because business travel is not for the faint of heart. Yes, it’s a great opportunity to see the inside of conference halls across the globe. Yes, I adore seeing colleagues I work with constantly and remotely. Yes, I even get to eat meals sometimes. But for all of you who travel as part of your job, or as part of your life, you know that cocktail nibbles do not a healthy diet make.

This Tower of Bacon was featured in a recent party I threw for work. Though there is parsley present, it is not a salad.

This Tower of Bacon was featured in a recent party I threw for work. Though there is parsley present, it is not a salad.

When I can, I bring my running shoes. When I can’t, I throw towels down on the floor and do yoga. There’s always a way to bring a little zen into the schedule. I have a friend who only stays in hotels with pools so he can swim. Make it work for you. Eat fruit and veg when you can, and salads are a great way to do that.

Fried Squash Blossoms on a bed of shaved zucchini. Totally counts as a salad.

Fried Squash Blossoms on a bed of shaved zucchini. Totally counts as a salad.

Road Salad:

1. Take control of your salad destiny in both portion size and toppings. You can order salad almost anywhere, it’s what happens next that can destroy the mission. If you only like one type of salad and it’s way high-cal, order the smaller one. If you’re crazy for greens, go big and limit the toppings. Make it work for you. Small and dense salads can be perfect in a grab and go situation on the road. Just limit the dressing and save the calories for something you want to eat.

Small but mighty, this salad features halloumi cheese and veggie kebabs (with a side of masala chai for kick). From Samovar Tea House, San Francisco.

Small but mighty, this salad features halloumi cheese and veggie kebabs (with a side of masala chai for kick). From Samovar Tea House, San Francisco.

2. If you’re tired of leafy greens, try the beet salad, or the caprese, or even fruit! Expand your mind to include a broader range. Another great choice is a main that is served over a bed of greens. May not be in the salad column, but totally counts.

Greek yogurt with dates, honey, fruit, and basil and mint, plus walnuts. I dream of this sometimes. Also from Samovar Tea House in San Francisco.

Greek yogurt with dates, honey, fruit, and basil and mint, plus walnuts. I dream of this sometimes. Also from Samovar Tea House in San Francisco.

3. Don’t fear the protein. Be it egg, fish, meal, or fowl, or legumes or nuts for that matter, add some lasting energy to your salad. If you are doing fruit salad, get yogurt or cheese. Balance in the force. You’ll stay full longer. This is not about starvation, this is about nutrition with some enjoyment.

Lunch salad from Chevy's Mexican with avocado and steak. Yes please.

Lunch salad from Chevy’s Mexican with avocado and steak. Yes please.

My favorite trick: a Peppermint Patty as a conclusion. I’m not a huge mint person, but mint makes me think of brushing my teeth, which signals that it’s time to stop eating. And chocolate = winning. Feel virtuous about your salad and have a sweet to conclude. You’ll feel satisfied and ready to face the canape again, I promise.

Rare tuna on a bed of greens. Perfect light entree.

Rare tuna on a bed of greens. Perfect light entree.

Send your green leafies, good ideas, and food challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus, Busy Family Edition

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/4/2013 (What Happened to Summer Edition)

Gentle Readers, could you please send out an APB for summer? August, really? Tomatoes are here, corn is here, and I’m eating anything that involves watermelon. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the subtle crunch that fresh corn and diced zucchini provide to any number of dishes. I was in a bit of a food rut, and I find myself newly inspired and ready to meet some old ingredient friends in the kitchen again.

The Tower of Tomatoes from Guglhupf!

The Tower of Tomatoes from Guglhupf!

First order of business, I’m going to the farmer’s market this week. Second order, we are eating fresh when possible again, because we have more exciting food travel on our horizons, including New Orleans. I haven’t been since before Katrina, so please send your suggestions and thoughts for must-eats!

My lunch almost every day last week. Summer craving: tomatoes and cheese!

My lunch almost every day last week. Summer craving: tomatoes and cheese!

Now, the Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 8/4/2013

Weekly Menus: 8/4/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 8/4/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 8/4/2013

Which all translates to:

Sunday: Dine Out!
First I must conclude some more field research. So far this week I’ve remembered I love chicken liver, met a vegetable mix at G2B in Durham that I want to make at home and possibly marry, and rekindled my dessert romance with sticky toffee pudding.

Grilled vegetable melange, I love you.

Grilled vegetable melange, I love you.

Sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream from Piedmont Restaurant.

Sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream from Piedmont Restaurant.

 

Monday: Salad
If you need to ask why, see the above paragraph. I love salad though, with it’s infinite possibilities. This will be a clean out the crisper drawer variety.

Tuesday: Pasta Surprise
I see a primavera in my future. Fresh herbs, lemon, good romano. Yum.

Wednesday: Omelets
I miss omelet bar, so we shall eat it again. A dab of this and that, featuring whatever we have or buy at the Farmer’s Market. Plus some good bread.

Thursday: Sausage and Pierogie
A family favorite, I may try my hand at Savoy cabbage as well, another favorite from one of my favorite local chefs, Carrie at G2B.

Savoy cabbage with bacon and almonds from G2B.

Savoy cabbage with bacon and almonds from G2B.

Friday: Dine Out!
Travel calls again, and I can’t wait for this one. Beignets for dinner? I have no objection.

Saturday: Leftovers?
We will probably do more adventure eating, but I recommend Saturday as movie and leftovers night. We have found all sorts of ways to make finger food healthier and fun. Try savory popcorn mixes, small sandwiches, and cut veggies and fruit. Peanut butter and celery is a favorite here right now.

What’s on your table this week? Share your meal ideas and New Orleans secrets! Post a comment below or say hello on the Twitters.

Send extra weeks of summer, tomatoes, and good wishes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Up next (on Wednesday): An Ode to Eggs–One Ingredient Three Ways

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Weekly Menus: Week of 4/7/2013 (with actual meal plans!)

Gentle Readers, what a long strange trip it has been. By that, I mean business and vacation were back to back in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve eaten my way along both coasts of these United States. Strangely, I now have intense cravings for Malaysian food, perhaps because BestieForce has been in both places. Yes, those are unicorn chopsticks.

BestieForce! Just add unicorn chopsticks.

BestieForce! Just add unicorn chopsticks.

And yes, I woke up in the middle of the night, jetlagged and craving this, Roti. Reviews of the two Malaysian restaurants are pending, and rumor has it I may learn to cook the sticky dessert rice I kept eating as well. Stay tuned.

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

But back in realityville, I came home to a reasonably clean kitchen and a fairly blank slate. You can see I’m not done globetrotting from the menus though. There’s an international festival at school this week, but we tend to eat that way all the time.

Sticky Rice with Mango from Banana Leaf

Sticky Rice with Mango from Banana Leaf

Without further delay, here are our weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 4/7/2013

Weekly Menus: 4/7/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/7/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/7/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Salad!
I’ve been craving this for days. Though I managed a few of them over the last couple of weeks, it was not as often as it should have been.

Monday: Indian
I have some cauliflower that needs roasting, and I may try my hand at the sauce that goes with the roti pictured above. Plus chickpeas. Though my recent trip to Roti Boti has spoiled me on this front. Sigh, food memories . . .

The largest, fluffiest naan I've ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

The largest, fluffiest naan I’ve ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

Tuesday: Stir fry OR Breakfast for dinner
Depending on time and leftover supplies, I’ll make the call. I feel certain I know which the Jrs will choose. I have a half gallon of milk that needs to be consumed quickly, and eggs too. I’m thinking it’s time to make Waffles in bulk. Perhaps to be served with chicken?

36 Waffles

36 Waffles

Wednesday: Dine Out (Germany!)
We’re celebrating someone cranky’s birthday (cough cough Wadorf), and the Jrs have decided to go German on this one. Our tradition is to visit a new “country” (via food) and then ask a lot of trivia questions about that country during dinner. It’s great fun, give it a try.

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Thursday: Mexican
It’s been too long since we have had our simple and traditional spinach quesadillas at home. Perhaps I’ll make sopapillas to go with. Mmmm. Dessert.

Carbonara from NYC!

Carbonara from NYC!

Friday: Pasta and Salad
Clean up hitter for the week. I may attempt carbonara again to polish off the last of the eggs. The Jrs are big fans, especially now that they are eating bacon again.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Looking forward to this one.

Questions, comments, topics? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next on Wednesday, Reader Questions and Feedback! (Submit Yours Today!)

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Leftover Salad, a Recipe of Sorts

Gentle Readers, sometimes it is difficult to determine how best to use up leftovers. Things that were once delicious can seem foreign or small, or fuzzy. Excluding the latter category as science experiment, let us discuss one of the most efficient ways to solve the leftover problem: a bed of lettuce.

Beautiful lettuces all in a row at the Farmer's Market.

Beautiful lettuces all in a row at the Farmer’s Market.

Yes, in the season of rabbits, greens are the great connector. After a fantastic meal with friends and colleagues at G2B Restaurant recently, I walked home with leftovers from the charcuterie plate and half my steak. What is a Practical Cook to do?

Leftover Salad, courtesy of steak, onions, and cheese from G2B Restaurant.

Leftover Salad, courtesy of steak, onions, and cheese from G2B Restaurant.

This. I sliced the steak into bite-sized pieces, and crumbled one of the cheeses over the top. Dollop of the caramelized onions, and topped with balsamic and olive oil. I also added a handful of dried cherries. It was transforming. I wanted to eat one the next day.

Charcuterie plate becomes salad bar!

Charcuterie plate becomes salad bar!

Alas, the blessing and curse of the leftover salad, each one as unique as a snowflake. The larger point, start looking at your leftovers like toppings at a salad bar. It will change your relationship to them and to lunch. Enjoy.

What’s the strangest salad combo you’ve ever made? I won’t tell. Post a comment, send a tweet, hail a carrier pigeon, just share!

Send your leftovers, witty rejoinders, and binders full of questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up next on Friday, Roasted Broccoli with Oranges, or How to Fake Chinese Takeout.

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Spinach Crostini: A Recipe of Sorts

Gentle Readers, the best vegetable is the one that is eaten without complaint. Though I’m very fortunate to be raising a couple of foodies who don’t run screaming from green things, crostini is a secret weapon in the war for nutrition and good taste.

Spinach Crostini: Sauteed spinach, goat cheese, toast.

Spinach Crostini: Sauteed spinach, goat cheese, toast.

Bread (toasted), cheese (goat, in this case), and garlicky sauteed spinach. Done. It’s an appetizer, it’s a vegetable, it’s a miracle. You can mix this up at will. I served these the other night, and we consumed an entire bag of baby spinach between the three of us. It was unbelievably delicious, and we all ate it not just without complaint, but with joy.

Try cream cheese and roasted red peppers, or sauteed broccolini with goat cheese. Change the bread from loaf to baguette. Use what’s at hand, stack it, and cut into manageable pieces.

Crostini with Broccolini

Crostini with Broccolini

This is the perfect lead-in to a pasta meal, or to soup. It stretches what’s being served, and it is so very easy. Spinach on bread, Popeye would be proud.

What’s your favorite green vegetable? Post a comment below! It is easy AND fun.

Send deep thoughts, kitchen confessions, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up on Friday: Bachi Burger, I Think I Love You.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 1/6/2013

Gentle Readers, it’s that special time of year between the holiday cookie rush and physical fitness. Each year this is punctuated by my yearly cholesterol check. So chances are extremely high that I will clean up my Deep Fried habits. Tomorrow.

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

I jest, I know it is time to focus again, and so I will eat salads and grapefruit and run more than usual to beat the odds.

Which means on this week’s menus we have:

Weekly Menus: 1/62013

Weekly Menus: 1/62013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/6/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/6/2013

Translating into a reasonably healthy:

Sunday: Salmon and Veggies
I will have a fall-back plan, probably eggs, for the TPCs Junior. But I’m craving salmon, and listening.

Monday: Leftover Surprise
We’ve been rocking out the leftovers in the last couple of weeks, recommitting to not wasting food. It’s always a good challenge to use what’s on hand.

Tuesday: ??? Dine Out ???
This is scheduled to be our night out eating some culture’s cuisine with our favorite crankypants, Waldorf. The challenge is answering history and culture questions about the “country” in which we land. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday: Burgers and Fries
While at first glance this may not look like healthy living, it will probably be a combo of actual burgers and veggie burgers. We are hosting the handiman with the mostest, TPCs Dad, and that means beef is what’s for dinner. Food on a bun is an easy compromise. Plus the fries will be sweet potato, and there will be serious green veg on the side.

Thursday: Fake Chicken and Broccoli
Look for a full review on this one soon. We tested a new line of soy chicken (again, I don’t love meat replacement products, I prefer unadulterated ones, but this is transitional), and it was a huge hit. Even I’ll admit it was tasty. With broccoli and brown rice or noodles, it’s a quick weeknight dinner, and we’ve got a busy week.

Friday: Salad Bar!
We bought three kinds of salad greens (each of us has a preference), and this will be the last call to use up whatever has not been consumed during the week.

Saturday: Dine Out!
More field research is to be done! I’ve heard rumblings that a place I tested and disliked has improved, and there are several others untried in the area. As always, ping me with suggestions, I’m happy to try new spots!

Are you committing to good health in 2013? Any changes on the horizon? I’m still trying to walk the line between raising vegetarians and my own personal drive for protein. I do not want to raise pastatarians or cheesetarians. Sigh, onward and upward. Comment away!

Send your lettuces, lucrative offers, and kitchen confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, Review of Rise in Durham: Biscuits and Doughnuts, Oh My.

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