Vegan Bacon Breadcrumb Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We are late comers to the roasted Brussels sprouts game, and we’ve got to make up for lost time. I never had them growing up because my mom hated them. Jocelyn’s mom had a habit of calling them “little green balls of death,” which you can guess means they weren’t a favorite.

Brussels Sprout Soda: A Bad Taste in My Mouth

One of my only Brussels sprouts experiences before recently was actually not with Brussels sprouts at all. Jones soda makes special holiday packs of sodas that aren’t meant to be drunk so much as endured. A friend brought their Thanksgiving pack into the office for a taste test. The last one on everybody’s list was Brussels sprout soda, and it was without exception the worst drink I have ever tasted. It was so awful that it warned me off of the vegetable itself for over a decade.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts: The Best Taste in My Mouth

But guys, I was so wrong. Once we discovered the power of roasting, we realized we didn’t have to dislike any vegetable anymore. They’re all pretty much delicious when they’re prepared properly. And oh brother, let me tell you, these roasted Brussels sprouts are about as proper as it gets. They’re brown and crispy, and they’re topped with crunchy brown breadcrumbs and salty, smoky vegan bacon. If you’re on the fence about Brussels sprouts, get off of that fence. It’s cold outside. Fences aren’t comfortable to sit on. Rethink your sitting strategy. Also, have some food.

Breadcrumb roasted Brussels sprouts

Ingredients:

1 lb quartered Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup lemon dressing
1 Tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegan bacon bits

Directions:

Toss the sprouts with the lemon dressing. Roast at 450° F until brown. I like them to be super crispy, so I usually leave them in as long as I can. Melt the vegan butter and mix with the breadcrumbs and vegan bacon bits. Broil for 2 minutes, until the breadcrumb mixture is golden brown and you just can’t help but yank them out of the oven and dig in.

Letters to Santa – Unclear on the Concept

Last year we took Watson to see Santa at the local shopping center. Let’s just say he was less than enthusiastic about the idea. He’s always been a shy little boy, and the idea of getting up in a weird old beardy man’s lap didn’t sit well with him. Instead he ran around and observed Santa from afar. Watching. Waiting.

We’ve tried to float the idea with him this year, but he’s been steadfast in his refusal. He knows who Santa is, he knows what Santa is about, and aside from finding Santa’s handiwork on Christmas morning, Watson wants no part of him. Since a visit to Santa is out, we decided to get Watson to write a letter.

This was harder than we’d anticipated, not least because Watson simply doesn’t know what a letter is, at least in this sense. He knows the letters of the alphabet, but in this age of FaceTime and Skype, he has no reason to know what a letter is. He also can’t write anything but his name, which he dutifully wrote at the bottom of the letter.

So Jocelyn decided to take Watson’s dictation as faithfully as possible. She cleaned up a few of the bits where she had to stop him and clarify what the whole exercise was about, but on the whole the letter turned out quite well.

Watson's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I want to write you a letter.
I will write an F.
I want to do a little F.
I want to give you one of my books.
Please can I have Kylo Ren’s lightsaber.
I want a different book, a book that is a Star Wars book. I will trade you my old Star Wars book.
Vivi wants a Cinderella toy. She wants a bed for Brianna.
Freddy might want a thing that is a new walker.
I want a pretend F.
You don’t need to bring anything for mommy and daddy.

Thinking of you,
Watson

Simple Lemony Vinaigrette Dressing

With all the morning sickness, any kind of strong flavors turn me off. Finding new recipes is kind of a nightmare since I never know what will set me off. We’ve been relying more on simple, easy to prepare foods and some old favorites.

This lemony dressing is easy to prepare, and a great topping for bowls or salads. This week, we tossed a couple tablespoons with some squash and roasted it for a tasty addition to grain bowls.

Roasted Squash

Ingredients:

2 Tsp mustard
Juice of one lemon
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

Blend first three ingredients with a generous amount of salt. Drizzle in oil with blender running until it’s all added and dressing is creamy. Enjoy all over the place.

Keeping Healthy Through Changes

We’ve been absent from the blog a bit more than we’d like lately, and for that we apologize. We’re just ramping up into the busiest season of the year. Over two months we’ve got Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 3/5 of the birthdays in our household. Jobs have been busy, with long hours and long commutes. Our older kids have developed the habit of waking up in the middle of the night to sleep in our bed.
What better, we decided, than to add a fourth child to the mix?
That’s right, as of mid-June or so, we’re upgrading from a family of five to a family of six! We don’t yet know if the baby is going to be a boy or a girl. Watson insists that we name the baby Cup (we’re trying to work with him on that). By this time next year the kids will outnumber us two to one.
This has presented us with some interesting food challenges.

1) How to stay healthy on a pregnancy diet

Now that Jocelyn’s pregnant, she’s had higher calorie intake needs and also high calorie cravings. We don’t want her trying to lose weight, but we also don’t want pregnancy to be an excuse for her to stop eating healthy. I also don’t want to let Jocelyn’s pregnancy be an excuse for me to gain weight. That has happened in each of her other pregnancies. It’s a lot more common than I would ever have anticipated.
To fight back against this, we’ve tried to make our lunches more modular. We still take the same thing, but Jocelyn takes an extra snack or an extra piece of fruit. Everything is packaged into individual servings, so we can just grab and go. This has definitely helped. We’ve also tried to be more laid back about eating out since it’s been so busy. We don’t want to force things and get stressed and fall off the wagon completely. Instead we splurge just a little bit here and there by getting some pizza, or going to Panera. It sure beats running ourselves ragged to make food at home every night, no matter how hard. Since we stay reasonably within our bounds when eating out, it’s easier to come back to earth once we reset.

2) How to work around food aversions

The more difficult problem is working around Jocelyn’s food aversions. She’s had trouble with strong flavors. There are things we’ve stocked up on that are no longer any good for her, and we’re scrambling to find replacements. This morning I packed some falafel-spiced crunchy chickpeas as a snack. They’ve long been a favorite of ours, but Jocelyn smelled them and couldn’t handle the spices. The good news is there’s more for me (seriously, they’re delicious), but we have to work to find snacks she can stomach.
The tougher food aversion problem is figuring out how best to work with all of the ingredients in our Hungry Harvest box. This is a nut we haven’t always cracked successfully, but we’re working on it. Food aversions can be swift and severe, and we can never predict what they’re going to be. In those cases, we’ve got to be adaptable. Either we preserve the offending foods, or prepare them so I can eat them and Jocelyn can stay away. It’s a challenge, and it keeps us on our toes.

3) How to make sure kids eat healthy (or at least try healthy foods…or at least have healthy foods sit in front of them for a while)

Finally, we’ve been working hard to teach our kids how to eat healthy. We could feed them chicken nuggets and grapes every night and they’d be happy, but they wouldn’t be learning about new wonderful foods from all around the world. The problem is that at their ages, they’re almost never actually ready to try new wonderful foods. It’s a struggle to get them to try food they’ve already tried and liked, let alone to try new stuff.
We don’t want to instill any kind of neuroses around food, so we don’t require that they clean their plate to be excused. We do make sure they know the dinner we make is the dinner they get. They don’t get special accommodations. If they go to sleep and wake up hungry an hour later, they can have some of the food they refused. It can’t be an excuse to eat the food they wanted in the first place. So far this has been broadly unsuccessful, but these things take time.
We’ve been more lenient with treats, especially since we’re overflowing with the Halloween surplus. They don’t have to finish their whole dinner all the time to get a treat. Usually we just make sure they try a bite or two of the new stuff on their plate before they get one. We want to leave open the possibility that they might just really not like something, at least for now, and reward the willingness to explore and be adventurous with their taste.

Spaghetti Squash Bake

We like to use spaghetti squash as a sort of healthy alternative to pasta. Not that pasta isn’t healthy, per se, but we always have a temptation to eat so dang much of it. This spaghetti squash bake functions kind of like a pasta casserole, with its tomato sauce and vegan parmesan topping, but it’s not too heavy. Most of all, it’s super tasty.

Spaghetti Squash Bake: A Healthy Dinner that Feels Indulgent

The nice thing about this is that it’s pretty hands off and easy to make. Nothing requires careful tending, just a little bit of work on the stove and in the oven and you’re set! It also reheats beautifully for work.

Now I know as well as the next guy that spaghetti squash isn’t the same as pasta. The consistency isn’t the same, the flavor isn’t the same, etc. That’s why I almost always insist on recipes that douse it in some kind of sauce. The squash soaks up that nice flavor, and baking it in the sauce softens it even a bit more, so you lose most of the crunch that can sometimes go along with spaghetti squash and distance it from bona fide pasta.

Spaghetti Squash Bake

Ingredients:

1 medium to large spaghetti squash
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp + 1 Tsp olive oil
2 15-oz cans tomatoes, whole or diced
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for a few hours
1 cup pecans
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tsp salt

Directions:

Roast or microwave the spaghetti squash. Which one you choose depends on how much time you’ve got and how much your kids are screaming.

To make the tomato sauce, cook the onion and garlic in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil on medium high heat in a medium saucepan until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until thickened. Once the tomato sauce is done, blend it with the soaked cashews. Mix the tomato-cashew blend with the cooked spaghetti squash in an oven safe baking dish.

To make the vegan parm topping, place the pecans, nutritional yeast, remaining olive oil, and salt in food processor. Blend until everything looks crumbly and delicious. Sprinkle the topping onto the squash in the baking dish and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes.

Getting the Most Value from Your CSA Box

Like everybody who gets home deliveries of fruits and vegetables, we’ve sometimes had a tough time figuring out how to make sure we use up everything from our box and waste as little as possible. Here’s a few tips that have helped us figure out how to get the most out of our box.

1) Prioritize

Take a look at your box and see what you need to use right away and what can wait a couple days. Root vegetables, winter squash and apples always last a good while. We’ve found that pears need to be eaten pretty quickly. Stuff like salad greens aren’t going to stay good for too long. Front load your week with the stuff that needs to be used right away to make sure you don’t have to toss it.

2) Invest in some plant-based cookbooks

Even if you don’t eat all vegan all the time, these cookbooks often have tons of new ideas for using vegetables that you may not have thought of. Discovering sweet potato enchiladas has literally changed our lives. They’re often indexed by ingredient or cooking method, so we’re always finding new and creative ways to use even old and familiar ingredients.

3) Prep early

At the beginning of the week, chop up veggies for salads or snacks, roast some sweet potatoes, etc. Have everything ready so there’s never an excuse for not eating your CSA goodies, even on the busiest day. Doing this has helped us almost always resist the temptation to go out for lunch at work.

4) Have a wilted veggie plan

For us, this is vegetable stock. Wilted kale, squishy carrots, as long as it isn’t rotten or moldy, it goes in the pot and adds to tons of delicious recipes throughout the week. You can even freeze it for later. You can use it in place of meat stocks to adapt non-vegetarian recipes into vegetarian versions, too!

5) Adjust your box size to fit your lifestyle

We keep an eye on our grocery bill and if we’re subsidizing our csa with a particular type of produce, we adjust our box accordingly. Currently we get two boxes, usually one with mixed fruits and vegetables, and one all vegetable. This fits our mostly plant based eating style and allows us a good bit of freedom in what we eat. I always know it’s been a good week when csa day comes around and there’s nothing in the crisper.

In Conclusion: Be Organized, Be Realistic, and Branch Out

Getting boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables every week has been really great for us. We eat a ton of healthy food, and we’ve discovered a lot of stuff that we love, even though we once thought we hated it (I’m looking in your direction, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts). We do a fair bit of planning and prepping on the weekends, but just having some standard fallback plans has helped immensely. Get yourself a go-to salad recipe that can be adapted easily. Find a root vegetable soup that’s quick and easy and tasty. The easier you make it to eat everything in your delivery, the greater the chances nothing will go to waste.

Chocolate Tahini Cookies

We had chocolate. We had tahini. Buckle up for some chocolate tahini cookies, y’all.

Chocolate Tahini Cookies are Very Good

We like to take the opportunity to make food with our kids, especially when it’s fun food. Watson and Vivi love to each get a bowl full of ingredients to mix. They make an ungodly mess, but it’s adorable and who cares? You don’t have to clean the floor.

Watson has been very into Halloween lately, so he wanted to use his ghost cookie cutter to make some ghostly cookies. That didn’t work very well, since these cookies are very crumbly and fall apart pretty easily. They’re really better in a lumpy mound configuration.

Let me go on a short digression about tahini, if you will: tahini is great, you guys. It makes great sauces, it’s great in these cookies, it’s great in hummus, etc. Get some. Use it. Love it.

These are not cookies for folks with an extreme sweet tooth. They’re way more on the savory side. But they’re super tasty, and since they’re pretty crumbly, they offer a lot of delicious crumb-collecting fun once you’re done with all of the bits that hold together.

Chocolate Tahini Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup tahini
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 Tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup almond meal
1 c flour of choice (we’ve used both spelt and rice flour with success, although the rice flour makes for a crumblier cookie)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425° F. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Place tablespoon sized balls of cookie dough on a lined baking sheet, and press them down flat (but not too flat) with the heel of your hand. You can try rolling them out and using cookie cutters, like Watson wanted to do, but these cookies are pretty crumbly. The thinner they are, the more easily they fall apart once they’re baked. Bake each batch for 10 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

I don’t like to keep coming back to the same topic, but let’s be real: tacos are the bomb. It is less well-known, but no less true, that roasted cauliflower is also the bomb. You can probably guess that I believe roasted cauliflower tacos to therefore be the bomb. You would be right. I’m probably also making it clear that my grasp of post-nineties slang is not all that and a bag of chips, as it were. Sue me.

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos – A Delicious, Healthy Treat

We got ourselves some gorgeous purple cauliflower in our Hungry Harvest box this week, and we immediately knew we were going to make tacos with it. It turns out cauliflower is perfect for tacos. The nooks and crannies of the florets soak up cooking oil and spices, and they get nice and brown and crunchy in the oven. On top of a toasted corn tortilla, alongside an appropriate set of garnishes, there’s basically nothing better.

I wish I’d known earlier in life how delicious roasted vegetables were. I wish my kids were more receptive to my trying to teach them the lessons I wish I’d learned at their age. I wish that last sentence were easier to parse (but it makes sense, I promise!).

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

Ingredients:

Cauliflower:

Two small heads of cauliflower (we used a pretty purple kind)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tsp garlic powder
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp smoked paprika
1 Tsp cumin
1 Tsp chili powder

Slaw:

1 kohlrabi cut into matchsticks
1 carrot cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup mayo
Juice of 1 lime

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Cut cauliflower up into medium florets and toss with oil and spices. Roast on a lined baking sheet for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix all of the ingredients of the slaw together in a medium bowl. Toast a few corn tortillas lightly on the stovetop. Serve the tacos with diced avocado.

Simple Peach Pie Energy Balls

We love energy balls. Seriously, we really love them. We make them as snacks all the time. They seem small and unassuming, but they’re little dense bites of deliciousness, and they help stave off the hunger that creeps up between breakfast and lunch. As filling snacks go, these peach pie energy balls fit the bill quite nicely.

It’s also the end of summer and the beginning of fall, even if the weather hasn’t quite gotten the memo. Peaches feel like a summer food, but peach pie is what you make in the fall from all the peaches you thought you were going to eat and didn’t. These energy balls are the perfect fusion of summer flavor and fall comfort.

Peach Pie Energy Balls

This recipe really couldn’t be simpler. If you’ve got some measuring cups, a food processor, and five minutes, you’ve got everything you need to make these. When you’re getting meals ready for the week and there are three kids underfoot, it’s a small blessing to have a recipe that’s so simple. And one that doesn’t involve opening a hot oven when the kids are running around and curious.

These are also the kind of thing that makes packing lunches at 5:15 am a breeze. The more we’ve got already packed, that we can just grab and go, the better.

Peach Pie Energy Balls

Ingredients:

1 cup dried peaches
1 cup cashews
1/4 cup coconut
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions:

Just dump all of the stuff into a food processor, blitz until it’s crumbly, and then make it into balls and refrigerate. Eat one for a quick, delicious pick-me-up when you’re feeling hungry in the midmorning. That way you won’t be tempted to run out for a coffee and a donut because Royal Farms has Krispy Kremes and they’re delicious. Not that I’ve ever done that. Of course not.

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls with Spiked Apple Cider Glaze

I don’t have to prove my autumn bona fides to you. I mean, I will, but I don’t have to. So what’s more fall than pumpkin spice? What’s more fall than cinnamon rolls? How about pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls, the diabolical fusion of the two?

These right here are some tasty cinnamon rolls. They came together wonderfully, the glaze and filling are delicious, and they taste like autumn wrapped up in a beautiful spiral bow. Go and make them and eat them. Please. I want this for you.

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

1 small squash
3/4 cup almond milk
2 Tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 sticks vegan butter (we used Earth’s Balance)
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 Tsp ginger
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp nutmeg
1 Tsp cloves
1 Tsp allspice
2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup spiced rum

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, and roast until brown and soft. Scoop out and mash up the inside of the squash (it should make about 2/3 of a cup).

Warm up the almond milk to room temperature (we microwaved ours for about 30 seconds). Sprinkle yeast on top and mix. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Knead in flour, 1/2 stick of butter, honey, and salt. Let rest until doubled while you watch Inhumans because you’re curious, and looking through Netflix for something you can both agree to watch sounds exhausting.

Roll dough into a rectangle. In a food processor blend together stick of butter, spices, and 1/4 cup of the maple syrup. Spread the butter mixture on the dough and roll up. Cut into slices and place in a baking pan, spaced out so the rolls have room to grow. Let sit overnight. In the morning preheat the oven to 400° F and bake for about an hour, or until golden. While baking, place cider, rum, and remaining 1/4 cup of syrup in a pan and reduce until 1/2 cup or so is left. Poor over hot rolls and let sit for about 5 minutes to cool and soak up the syrup. Enjoy your amazing pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls.