I love to cook and eat healthy, homemade food. But with four kids and lots of other interests, I often fall back on frozen Trader Joe’s options or way-too-easy and less balanced choices (baguette with butter and salami for dinner, anyone?). Lately I’ve been working on strategies to make eating nourishing, delicious, from-scratch food a little easier and less time consuming.
The first step is our weekly roasted chicken dinner. I buy a good sized free range organic chicken (they really do have a better flavor, not to mention being healthier and more humane), plus whatever root vegetables look good- I like fennel, turnips, parsnips etc. and of course carrots!
Roasted Chicken & Veg
- A good whole chicken(4-6 lbs)
- Root vegetables
- Two onions
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
Heat oven to 425. Line a small roasting pan with heavy weight aluminum foil. Chop one onion and root veggies into similar sized chunks, reserving any tops, fronds etc(you’ll see why later). Place chopped veg in lined pan, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove chicken from wrapping and discard any giblets(you can cook them later if you like, but I don’t care for them!). Pat very dry(skin won’t crisp up if it is damp). Salt and pepper chicken cavity, halve your second onion and place inside cavity with a few chopped stalks of celery. Nestle chicken among veg in roasting pan and salt and pepper generously.
Leave in oven for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove from oven and place chicken on a cutting board with a well, or a rimmed platter(to catch juices), and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, reserve accumulated juices in roasting pan and put veggies back in oven to brown further while your chicken rests(if they look brown enough you can just cover with foil to keep warm).
Carve up your chicken, and serve with veggies, and a green salad or rice. Pick the carcass clean of meat and set meat aside for a future meal(part 3 of this chicken series!). Separately save all the bones, and cleaned carcass with vegetables inside- tune in to part 2 for what’s next with those!
My mother is an excellent, healthy cook. She also doesn’t like to eat the same thing too often, so sometimes she shares a recipe with me, and by the time I cook it for her she’s forgotten it even came from her recipe box! This asparagus soup is one of those- a springtime favorite in our house. It has very few ingredients so I always wait until asparagus is really in season and doesn’t travel too far to get to us, to let the rich, juicy green flavor the soup.
Mom’s Asparagus Soup
- 2 bunches asparagus
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 4T butter, divided
- 2T olive oil
- 2-4 cups chicken stock(depending on how thick you like your soup)
- Salt & pepper
Snap the woody ends off your asparagus, then cut off and reserve tips. Chop stalks into 1″ ish pieces. Heat olive oil with 2T butter in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté onions until soft, then add asparagus stems and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper and sauté until asparagus are al dente(test one). Add 2 cups stock, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
Allow to cool, then blend until smooth-add extra stock while blending if it is too thick for your tastes- it is equally good a bit chunky or thin like a bisque! When ready to serve, melt remaining 2T butter in a small skillet and sauté asparagus tips until browned, salting as you go.
Ladle soup into bowls and scatter a few buttery tips on top.
The first step of eating mindfully for me is preparing elements of meals in advance so they can just be thrown together easily(I had a hard boiled egg over microwaved broccolini for breakfast today). This week I cooked a gigantic spaghetti squash, as it is a great non-grain base for bowls of protein, sautéed greens, and healthy sauces.
1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side down, in 1/2″ water. Place in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes depending on how big your squash is. Over-cooked spaghetti squash is icky, so test your squash after 20-25 minutes. If it shreds easily into spaghetti, it is ready! I shred it all and put it into containers in the fridge.
I roasted a pan of turnips, and steamed and sautéed a few bunches of broccolini with oil and garlic. In addition, I used the tops of radishes from the farmer’s market to make radish & pistachio pesto, which makes a great dip, sauce, or spread.
Because I try to avoid excessive grains when doing a reset, I also make a loaf of this bread.
It is dense, chewy, and tasty, a great side for soup or base for avocado toast. I still limit myself to 1-2 pieces of this a day to keep with my commitment to variety, so it lasts a nice long time, sliced in the freezer and ready to toast.
I also hard boiled a few eggs for quick protein, and cold-brewed a pitcher of hibiscus herbal tea for sweet-drink cravings. So far my first day is going to plan- time to drink some water!
I understand why ideas like “detoxing” and “eating clean” have gotten a bad rap. I’m not a big fan of vilifying any particular food, even processed or fast food- moderation in all things works best for me, personally. That said, after the holidays, vacation, or birthday indulgence(I’m looking at you, cheese cake and fudge!) I feel and look a lot better when I practice a week or two of concentrated, mindful eating. For me that means taking it easy on grains, dairy, coffee(my best friend!), and sweets. But I prefer to think about what I can eat more of rather than what is “forbidden,” so I also challenge myself to get as many vegetables in each meal as I can, and make a special effort to drink enough water. That way it is a fun challenge to come up with delicious, satisfying menus that put an emphasis on nutrient dense, fresh foods. This week, as I work on hitting the reset button for myself, I’ll share a few of my favorite mindful eating meals and strategies for making good food easy when you have lots of other stuff that needs doing!
For me, success eating mindfully comes from focusing on a few things
- Protein at every meal- helps me feel full and happy. Beans and soy don’t agree with me, so in my world that means lean animal protein and nuts/protein rich veggies
- Healthy fats at each meal- olive oil, nuts, and avocados are a go.
- Real food only- no artificial sweeteners, shakes, protein powders etc, just stuff that is made of actual food.
- Variety- no eating the same thing more than one meal a day, eggs once, nuts once, animal protein once. My gut and brain are both happier without too much repetition.
- Eat every 2-3 hours to keep level blood sugar and avoid craving quick, sugary food.
- Planned water breaks before and between meals.
- Preparation- lots of seasonal vegetables cooked and ready to eat or warm up in the microwave, so even when my kids are distracting me or I’m in a rush, I have no excuse to down buttery toast crusts and leftover brown sugar oatmeal for breakfast.
- Eat with the sun- breakfast first thing and last meal before sunset to let my digestive system rest overnight and avoid sleepy-time snacking.
This is not the advice of a health expert or registered dietician, just a busy mother’s way of eating mindfully for increased health and energy (not to mention glowier skin and less jiggle around the middle, though those aren’t the main objectives). Let’s go!
This flu season has been rough, health-wise for my usually hardy kids- intestinal bugs, an ear infection, sore throats, runny noses, and the cough that won’t quit. I like to have a jar of this on hand for soothing sore throats and clearing coughs and sinuses. This is by no means my idea, but in case you haven’t tried it- lemon, ginger, honey tea syrup!
Lemon, Ginger, Honey Elixir
- 2-3 lemons
- 4-5 inch ginger root, peeled
- 1-2 cups honey(raw and local are ideal
Slice your lemons and ginger into thin circles and take turns layering in jar
When jar is full almost to the top with layered lemon and ginger, slowly pour honey over, allowing it to drizzle down between the layers and fill all the empty space.
Cover and refrigerate for up to two months(if it lasts that long!). Scoop out a big spoonful and stir into a mug of hot water for soothing tea, or take a teaspoonful of just the syrup to coat a sore throat or help a persistent cough. I shouldn’t have to tell any moms out there never to give honey to an infant under 12 months, right?
I love my slow cooker for one thing: golden bone broth or stock made with a chicken carcass and veggie scraps. I keep wanting to find other things that are equally good, but the slow cooker chili and bean soup recipes don’t appeal at all. When I saw this Momofuku Pork recipe, I realized right away it could be adapted to the slow cooker. The result was, according to my eldest daughter, “the best pork I’ve ever had!” We had it plain with sides of asparagus and green beans, but it would be great on a chopped salad, in a wrap, tossed into soup…the only mistake I made was not getting a big enough piece of meat!
Slow Cooker Pork
- 1 pork shoulder roast, 3-5 lbs
- 1T salt per pound
- 1T sugar per pound
Rub pork with salt and pepper, wrap with plastic and let rest in fridge at least 8 hours
After rest, place roast and accumulated juices in slow cooker, cover and place on low for 7 hours
While still in slow cooker, use two forks to gently shred meat.
Cover and reset to high for an additional hour to cook down juices and carmelize the meat a bit(you can also spread out on a pan and broil for 15 minutes for color). Devour!
I love a good food trend. Chipotle chiles in adobo? Thank you, Martha. Zatar? Sumac? Oh Yotam. So of course I was intrigued the spiralizer madness going on in my Pinterest and Instagram feeds this fall. I got a complicated Austrian one I’m too afraid to remove from the box, then on a whim ordered this super simple oxo one. I LOVE it! Of course I’ve only spiralized zucchini so far but the noodles it makes are super thrilling and more fun and tasty to eat than most pasta(which, let’s face it, is usually just a bland vehicle for rich sauce anyway). My adventuresome eater loves it too- she slurped up a bowl of zoodles sautéed with homemade radish leaf and pistachio pesto I had intended for her father.
I’m looking forward to trying sweet potatoes in a cream sauce, and making salads or summer rolls with raw beets and cucumbers etc… I’ll keep you posted.