Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

When the temperature starts reading in the single digits, there’s no doubt that it’s soup weather. This roasted acorn squash soup is great because it makes use of winter squash, of which we have an abundance. But winter squash is also great because it keeps forever, so we don’t feel a whole lot of time pressure to use it.

Will the Kids Eat It?

One of them will! Our youngest really loves just about any soup we make him, and we’re thankful for that. The other two are at least very creative with their soups, as our tablecloths will attest. It’s a losing battle to get them to not make a mess with the soup they’re not eating, but it’s one I still can’t help but fight. One of these days I’m going to get them to try soup, any soup, and they’re going to apologize for the years of resistance. I swear this will happen.

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 large acorn squash
2 Tbsp vegan butter (or regular butter, if that’s your thing)
1 red onion, sliced
1 large apple, cored and sliced
2-3 cups vegetable stock

Preparation Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until nice and soft. Set aside to cool. Melt the vegan butter and sauté the onion until starting to turn brown. Add in the apple and cook until the outside of the slices are starting to caramelize. Add in the squash flesh and stock and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the flavors are blended. Puree. (If you have a vitamix, just stick everything in there and throw it on the soup setting.)

Packaging Directions:

We like to use Mason jars to package leftovers as much as possible. They’re the workhorses of our kitchen. We split the soup up into 16-oz pint jars and refrigerate. When packing for lunch, we put one serving of soup with one quarter cup serving of sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds.

Meal Planning – Write It Down

At the beginning of the year you may see journals and planners in the aisles of Target. You may wonder, ‘In this age of digital wonders, who on earth is still buying a paper journal?’. The answer, for the purpose of meal planning, is me. On a related note, before Christmas we saw some Teletubbies merchandise at Target and wondered who was still buying that. The answer is my mother-in-law, as I am now painfully aware from the sounds coming from the kids’ room. They got four talking Teletubby dolls for Christmas and our son decides nightly that he actually hates them and wants them out of his room.

Journals: Your Best Friend for Meal Planning

Anyway, back to this whole journal thing. Every year I buy a planner because the day I don’t write down what we’re supposed to eat is the day I decide we have nothing in the kitchen and stuff my face with every kind of junk. We’re more lenient on the weekends, but during the week our meal planning falls apart if we don’t write it down. I write down everything we should have with us in our lunch bags, everything we should eat at home, and what the kids should have. A typical day might look like:

Us: Breakfast: Oatmeal

Lunchbag:  crackers and hummus, leftover chili, apple, pear, energy ball

Dinner: Stir fry (Vegetables, tofu, noodles, peanut sauce)

Kids: Breakfast: Oatmeal or frozen waffles

Lunch: Peanut butter sandwiches, apple sauce, pretzels

Dinner: Stir fry, grapes

Meal Planning Journal

If the kids don’t eat what we send them, daycare will give them chicken nuggets, so we try to send something they’ll eat. For dinner, however, they have to have some of what we’re having. The only exception is if I’ve made something spicy, in which case we make a modified version. Like on taco night, they still get a tortilla and a less spicy taco filling. We always give them fruit at dinner and they can have seconds of that.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

These sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds are a favorite in our house. They can be sprinkled on soups and salads or just eaten as a snack. A lot of times I make them as a garnish and end up eating at least half as a snack while cooking. They’re that good. Double or even triple the recipe for extra deliciousness.

Most of the time we wind up buying pre-made snacks at the store and portioning them out ourselves. This works pretty well for the most part, and we wind up with tasty stuff like granola and dried chickpeas and crackers. But we’ve also started making a bigger push to make our own snacks. These sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds are healthy and delicious and quite unlike most of the snacks we can get at the store.

Sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tsp ras al hanout
1/4-1/2 Tsp salt, depending on how salty you like them

Preparation Directions:

Toast the seeds in a dry pan for about a minute, then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to mix and stir occasionally. Once the sugar is melted, pop seeds in a bowl lined with wax paper. Try not to eat all of them immediately.

Packaging Directions:

If you’re making these for snacks through the week, you’ll probably want to at least triple the recipe. Once they’re done, split them up into small snack cups or sandwich bags in quarter cup servings. If you’re like me, you’ll end up with fewer servings than you expect because you’ll be unable to resist snacking as you pack.

Creamy Roasted Mushroom and Eggplant Risotto

If given the choice, I would probably never voluntarily opt to eat mushrooms or eggplant. Neither has ever been a favorite of mine. Jocelyn, however, is a big fan of both, so we’ve had to learn to compromise. In practice, that compromise looks a lot like me eating a bunch of mushrooms and eggplant. When I heard that she was planning to make an eggplant risotto topped with roasted mushrooms, I adopted my bravest fake smile and nodded in what I fear was not a very convincing manner.

But guys, get this: eggplant risotto with roasted mushrooms is good. Like, super good. The mushrooms are crispy and the eggplant puree is mixed in with the risotto and it’s creamy and delicious. Some nutritional yeast gives the whole dish an umami kick. I suppose I should really rethink that aversion to mushrooms and eggplant, because this dish is one of my favorites now.

Creamy Mushroom Eggplant Risotto

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant
1 head of garlic
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Preparation Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Lightly score the eggplant and pop in the oven along with the garlic. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until everything is nice and soft. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, toss the mushroom slices in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and a little salt and roast while you make the risotto.

Heat the stock in a small saucepan on medium high heat. Once the eggplant and garlic are cooled, peel and puree with a couple ladlefuls of stock. Heat the other Tbsp of olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté the shallots until golden. Add the rice and toast for about a minute. Pour in the wine and cook until absorbed. Add the stock a little at a time and stir as the rice absorbs it. Stir in the veggie puree and once the rice is cooked through and creamy, toss in the nutritional yeast. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Packaging Directions:

This one’s pretty easy. The only trick is to pack the mushrooms separately to preserve maximum crispiness. Pack the leftover risotto into 1 cup containers and split the remaining mushrooms into the same number of containers. Take and enjoy!

Meal Planning and a Fool-Proof Make-Ahead Breakfast

January 2018: Meal Planning Month

This year instead of making a long list of resolutions at the beginning of the year, we’re sharing a different goal each month. Each month we’ll share the tips and tricks we learn on the way as well as some recipes to go with each theme. This month we’re going to get better about meal planning. Our meal planning game has definitely improved a lot since last year, but there’s still room to get even better. We want to eat better to keep up the health goals we’ve achieved over the last year. We also want to save money. Meal planning helps with both of these things.

This month we’ll be posting recipes as usual, with ingredients and directions for making the dish. We’ll also be posting directions showing how we pack up leftovers to make healthy meals a snap throughout the week.

One of our favorite breakfasts to make ahead, especially in the winter, is slow-cooker oatmeal. It’s super easy, fast, and lasts for 2-3 days depending on how many children are in the mood to eat it.

Meal planning - Slow cooker oatmeal

Ingredients:

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1/3 cup almond milk (coconut milk is also delicious)
1 Tbsp nut butter (we used cashew)
Chopped fruit (this time we’re using kiwi; you can do one kind or a combo of different fruits)

Preparation Directions:

Pop the oats, water, and almond milk in the slow cooker. Set on low for 8 hours. Go to sleep. Wake up and top your delicious oatmeal with nut butter, fruit, and anything else you want, with kiwi and cashew butter we added a little maple syrup. In the summer we love to do berries, almond butter, and granola.

Packaging Directions:

For later in the week, package the leftover oatmeal in 1 cup or 1/2 cup portions. Place a tablespoon or two of nut butter in another small container and some chopped fruit in one more container. Pack a portion of oatmeal, a portion of nut butter, and a container of fruit into a freezer bag until you’ve portioned out all of the oatmeal. Then you have all the components for a delicious breakfast whenever you want it.