december meal plan

green winter kale leek romanesco meal plan

Hello!  Here we are, back again for another meal plan this week- vegan, seasonal, and waste free as usual.  This week as per a suggestion from one of you, I’m including a shopping list at the end to make things easier- just keep in mind that I shop and cook for four + I’m assuming you have pantry basics like s+p, olive oil, vinegar, agave or honey etc.

This week’s recipes are a little more involved than last week’s, but not by much.  I’m drawing inspiration from the beets and citrus that are taking over the market right now.  You’ll notice I’ve started the week on Tuesday since Monday is Christmas for us.  It’s still 5 days of meals, so if you don’t do Christmas, just treat Tuesday as Monday.

If you’re curious, it’s just me, Joel, the kids, + Joel’s mom for Christmas, so our menu isn’t crazy.  I’ll be setting out some bulk olives + rosemary almonds for appetizers, maybe some kombucha cocktails (boozy for adults, regular for kids- but still in a fancy glass so they feel included), and for dinner: stuffed cabbage rolls + winter reds salad and baked latkes.  Happy holidays and have a lovely week!

French breakfast radish spinach winter farmers market

prep ahead:

big batch of oven steamed beets:  such an easy, flavorful way to cook beets.

roasted beets bay leaf thyme vegan meal plan

whole grain mustard vinaigrette:  1/4 cup whole grain mustard, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (minced), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, all whisked together.

mustard vinaigrette lemon thyme french

big batch of quinoa: 1.5 cups any color quinoa, boiled in lots of salted water like pasta until tender, about 8-10 minutes, then drained.  If you don’t care for quinoa or are tired of it, try any other grain like: farro, barley, rice, spelt, or millet.

lentils:  place 1 cup lentils in a pot with water covering them by 1 inch + a bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till tender (25-35 minutes).  Drain any excess liquid, toss with a few splashes red wine vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cool before storing in the fridge.

lentils french bay leaf

roast hazelnuts:  1 cup, on a baking sheet, bake at 350 10-15 minutes.  You can dump them in a kitchen towel afterwards and rub the skins off if you like- I usually don’t bother to.  Cool and store in an airtight container at room temp.

hazelnuts roasted  organic zero waste

toast pumpkin seeds:  1 cup, in a hot, dry pan until they start to pop.  Cool and store in an airtight container at room temp.

pepitas pumpkin seeds

de-seed pomegranate:  a great meditation in action task, ha.  Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.

meals:

tuesday:  beet soup with caraway and dill (sub coconut milk mixed with a few teaspoons lemon juice for the buttermilk) + spinach salad: toss spinach with the mustard vinaigrette, 1 large shredded carrot, 1 cup cooked lentils, 1 cubed avocado, 1 sliced apple and some toasted pumpkin seeds.

vegan beet soup coconut milk dill bagel spice

spinach carrot apple avocado lentil vegan salad

wednesday:  quinoa salad:  toss quinoa with the rest of your dill, half the bunch of cilantro, half the bunch of parsley + a generous scoop of the mustard vinaigrette.  Chop up all of your cooked beets- put half in the quinoa salad and reserve the other half in a container in the fridge for another day.  Peel and chop up 2 oranges and thinly slice some radishes (reserve a few radishes for tomorrow).  Add to the bowl and mix.  Serve on a bed of arugula and sprinkle chopped hazelnuts and half your pomegranate seeds on top.  Add a wedge of lime on each plate to serve.  This should make extra, so you’ll have leftovers for lunch(es).

quinoa roasted beet salad arugala radish hazelnut grain

thursday:  pick up a nice loaf of crusty bread on the way home.  Put the leftover beet soup on the stove and start it heating.  Slice up your bread, toast it, rub with garlic, add avocado and flaky sea salt, then layer thinly sliced radish on top.  Add some pumpkin seeds on top of both the soup and toast for a crunchy pop of flavor, chili flakes + some chopped cilantro on the soup.  Lime wedges to serve.

friday:  winter bistro salad (add in a can of drained chickpeas patted dry on a kitchen towel when roasting the veggies.  increase the smoked paprika to 1/2-1 teaspoon.  omit egg and add avocado, sub hazelnuts for almonds).  If you have leftover bread you can cube it up and bake on another sheet at the same time as your veggies for croutons.

saturday:  monastery lentil soup + leftover beet salad: chop them up and toss with a few tablespoons each of vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper, and 1/2 a thinly sliced red onion.  Let it sit while you’re waiting on the soup and when ready to serve, add in a sliced orange, sprinkle over toasted hazelnuts or pumpkin seeds, any leftover pomegranate seeds + serve with butter lettuce leaves.

beet Cara Cara orange red onion salad

shopping list:

onion x 4 (3 large yellow and 1 small red)

garlic x 1

leek x 1

carrots x 4 very large

parsnips x 3 large

red beets x 4 pounds

celery root x 1/2 large

radish x 1 small bunch

frisee endive or other bitter green x 1.5 pounds

spinach x enough for a salad one night

arugula x enough for a salad one night

butter lettuce x 1-2 heads (enough as a side for 1 dinner)

fresh dill x 1 bunch

cilantro x 1 bunch

parsley x 1 bunch

fresh thyme x 1 bunch

limes x 2

lemon x 1

orange x 3

pomegranate x 1

avocado x 3

a sweet apple (i.e. not green) x 1

whole grain mustard (I use Maille brand) x 1 jar

coconut milk x 1 can

tomatoes x 1 pound can

chickpeas x 1 can (or a batch of homemade)

quinoa x 1.5 cups

hazelnuts (or another type of nut you prefer) x 1 cup

pumpkin seeds x 1 cup

lentils x 2 cups (I prefer the smaller French green lentils or black Beluga lentils)

veggie stock x 3 cups

bay leaves (3, optional)

caraway seeds

dried marjoram

dry sherry (you can pick this up inexpensively at Trader Joe’s)

1 loaf crusty bread (pick this up thursday if possible)

at the market now: beets + 5 ways to use them

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I just adore beets.  Those gorgeous colors, that deep earthy sweetness, and the fact that they come with a free bunch of greens attached!!!!  YES please.  In all honesty, I really used to be disgusted by them, though.  I thought they tasted like dirt.  Thankfully my taste buds aren’t petulant babies anymore.  Beets are abundant at our local farmer’s market throughout fall, winter, and spring.  After a long hot summer, I’m dying to welcome  them back.

I usually find three varieties at our market- red (Bull’s Blood, Detroit Wonder, Cylindrica), pink with white rings inside (Chioggia, Candy Stripe), and yellow or golden.  They all taste a little different.  The golden and chioggia types taste milder and sweeter.  They are delicious raw, sliced paper thin on a mandolin (chioggia are especially gorgeous this way, as you can see all the vibrant stripes).

Beets can be roasted, pickled, steamed, eaten in salad, added to hummus, and so much more.  Cut into cubes and roast with squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, rosemary and garlic for an easy side.  Slice them thinly on a mandolin, and bake with olive oil and sea salt for crispy chips.

An easy way to prep the whole bunch at once: cut off stems and tail, wrap tightly in aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour until soft.  Let them cool a bit and then open up the foil and rub it against the skin-it will slip right off.  Compost the skins and rinse off and reuse or recycle the foil.

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Treat beet greens like any other hardy green (kale, chard, etc) and saute.

At the market, choose beets that feel firm with fresh and green leaves.  The best, freshest beets will have a sort of sheen to the skin.  When you get home, wash them and cut the greens off, or they will continue to draw moisture and flavor out.  I store the roots loose in my crisper drawer.  Cut the leaves off of the stems.  Compost the stalks and store the leaves as you would any leafy green- I either wrap loosely in a slightly damp kitchen towel, or in my storage bags from The Swag (they work really well).

All that said, let’s get cooking.  Here are a few recipes that we especially enjoy using beets as the star.

citrus and beet winter salad (serves 4 as a side)

INGREDIENTS:

2 large beets, steamed or roasted, peeled and sliced into wedges (see roasting instructions above if interested)

1 small chioggia or yellow beet, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin

2 oranges, skin and pith removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick crosswise, seeds removed

1 large avocado, pitted and sliced

1/4 cup of roasted pistachios (sub any other toasted nut or seed)- roughly chopped

1/3 cup of pomegranate arils

1 small shallot, finely chopped ~ 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme OR 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped very finely

1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

a handful of leafy bitter/spicy greens, like arugula, radicchio, or endive

flaky sea salt for finishing

opional: Urfa Biber chili flakes (I had them around, they are black flakes with a mild heat and deep flavor + they look beautiful on food) black sesame seeds would do the trick too to pop the colors.

METHOD:

Place shallot and ACV in a small mixing bowl.  Let sit 2 minutes, then whisk in the oil, sweetener, herbs, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust as necessary.

Spread the greens out over a large plate or serving platter.  Arrange the roasted beets, oranges, avocado on top.  Tuck in the raw sliced beets around the sides and in empty spaces. Sprinkle on the pomegranate arils and drizzle dressing over the salad evenly.  Sprinkle the nuts and a few pinches of flaky salt over and serve immediately.

We like to serve as a side with a nice creamy soup, like butternut or carrot + some crusty bread + the beet greens (sauteed with olive oil, shallot, lemon, and nutmeg).

+4 more recipes that can’t be beet 

crushed and crispy beets with yogurt : this is a delicious recipe.  I skip the second step of pan frying to make it easier.  Coco yogurt with a few teaspoons of lemon and pinch of salt mixed in is an easy swap for the labneh.

french “peasant” beets : I’ve made this recipe quite a few times, subbing miyoko’s vegan butter (TJ’s has the lowest price on this or you can make your own!  this is miyoko’s recipe and it’s really easy + no plastic) and a cashew cheese for the goat cheese called for.  A great dinner with a green salad and some crusty bread.

fudgy chocolate beet cake with avo frosting : GF/V, rich, dense, packed with healthy plant foods, and tastes like perfect cake.  I made these in cupcake form once to send with my son to a SAD eater’s kid’s birthday party, where I knew they’d be serving chocolate cupcakes.  They looked exactly the same and my son didn’t eat crappy corn syrup and hydrogenated oil laced cupcakes.  WIN!

ginger+star anise quick pickled beets : so easy + silky, sophisticated flavors.  A perfect dinner party starter along with some roasted almonds and some crackers and nut cheese.

Now go buy some beets and eat them all the ways 🙂  Tag me on Instagram @mamaeatsplants so I can see all your beet-y creations!

xx love to you

a flexible fall salad

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This is a seasonal favorite of ours, a colorful salad with a strong vinaigrette that can hold its own and acts as a nice counterpoint to the denser, grounding, cooked dishes that our bodies gravitate toward in winter.  There’s hearty greens, crunchy vegetables, sweet fruit, toasted nuts and/or seeds, and a garlicky, mustardy vinaigrette.  I’ve added lots of substitution suggestions in the recipe as I don’t believe in rigid cooking.  Use what you have, what you enjoy and gravitate towards, whats available and fresh in your area.  One of the pleasures of cooking is sensing and feeling instead of measuring.  Also, if you have children, whisking vinaigrette is a fun job for them and they can learn the proportions and how make it themselves over time.  Serve it as a side or as a meal with soup, or add some legumes, tofu, or tempeh to make it a complete meal.   I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

VINAIGRETTE:

1 clove garlic, minced OR 1 small shallot, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice OR apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard OR whole grain mustard

2 teaspoons agave nectar OR maple syrup OR honey

S+P to taste

SALAD:

1/2 a head of kale, stems removed, sliced crosswise into thin strips OR any other hearty green like beet greens, bok choy, endive, escarole, spinach, or a mix.

1 cup sliced cabbage or brussels sprouts

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or grated OR radish OR celery- anything with CRUNCH!

1 large apple OR pear OR fuyu persimmon, sliced thinly

1/2 cup pomegranate arils

1/3c toasted nuts and seeds- any or all.  pumpkin+sesame, sunflower+hazelnut, almond+hemp, pecan+poppy are great combos

METHOD:

Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in a large salad bowl.  Taste and adjust to your preferences.  Add in kale to bowl.  Massage until softened, 3 minutes or so.  Add in the rest of the veggies and the apple and toss to coat.  Last, sprinkle the pomegranates and nuts+seeds over the top.  Serve!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

black rice + roasted squash salad

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I saw this recipe in the January issue of Bon Appetit and I had to try it!  It looked so bright and colorful.  Grain salads are so satisfying and keep well in the fridge.  I loved how this turned out, it’s definitely a keeper.  I served this with a quick coconut milk-miso-lime butternut squash soup (made from the other half of the squash from the recipe), and my chili roasted brussels.

microgreen black rice salad pomegranate butternut squash honey

Black rice and roasted squash salad. (adapted from Bon Appetit’s January 2014 issue)

2 cups black rice

½ medium butternut squash (or kabocha, or acorn) peeled, seeds removed, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons oil for roasting squash

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (maple syrup would also work here)

2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup microgreens or sprouts (I used some overgrown spicy microgreens, roughly chopped)

½ cup pistachios, chopped (pepitas or hazelnuts would also go well here)

Preheat the oven to 450.  In a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, add rice and 2.5c stock or water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, take off lid.  Place kitchen towel (folded in half to fit) over open pot.  Replace lid and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  (This step ensures fluffy, perfect and NOT SOGGY rice every time without a rice cooker.)  Allow rice to cool a little before assembling salad- warm rice is fine, just not hot as it will wilt the fresh produce.

Meanwhile, toss squash with a few tablespoons of oil, and a little salt and pepper.  Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (for easy cleanup and no sticking) and bake for 30-45 minutes, until squash is  soft, golden and browned around the edges.  Allow squash to cool for 10 minutes before proceeding.

While squash is cooling, mix the oil, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl.

Place rice and squash in a large bowl.  Add pistachios, scallions and pom seeds.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the microgreens and vinaigrette; toss gently.  Serve!

Note:  If you will have leftovers, keep the microgreens separate  otherwise they will go soggy in the fridge which is no fun.

 

gingery sesame-soy vinaigrette

asian carrot romaine apple salad sesame gingerI have been craving salad after salad this winter.  I think it is because I crave the vibrant colors and raw textures of summer produce.  Bright and colorful salads are a sweet spot in winter.  Packed with color and therefore nutrition, they are a great way to get your family’s veggies in!  Serve with a simple soup, baked sweet potatoes, or a quinoa dish and you have a complete meal.  This is a simple and quick salad to put together as a side yet it looks beautiful and it is so good!

The dressing is a sweet ginger-soy vinaigrette that keeps well in the fridge.  A few years ago I started making my own salad dressings and I’ve never looked back.  They are SO much more delicious than any store-bought dressing and you know exactly what goes in them!  Pictured below is the leftover dressing I had after using it on 2 adult salads and 1 kid salad.  Probably about a cup leftover.  You could easily double the recipe so you could keep it on hand for future salad-eating.

s

Sesame-ginger vinaigrette:

1/3c rice vinegar (unseasoned)

1T sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

small piece of ginger, minced (about 1/2-1t, depending on your taste)

1T toasted sesame seeds

2 1/2T soy sauce

1/4c brown sugar

1/3c oil, I used avocado oil

1 thinly sliced green onion

1T fresh orange or tangerine juice (optional-if you dont have any on hand, dont sweat it)

Whisk all ingredients together and pour into a mason jar to store.  Oil will separate so make sure to give it a good shake before you use it otherwise you’ll only be getting oil.

I served this over a simple salad of romaine, sliced rainbow carrots, chopped pink lady apple, and a little thinly sliced red onion.  It would also play well with Napa cabbage, asian pear, tangerines/oranges, cucumber, avocado, or spinach.  Use whatever you have on hand!  The beauty of cooking is in experimenting and making the recipe your own.  Enjoy!

Love, A.

mexican style chopped salad

vegan mexican radish chopped salad

I love chopped salads.  There is something wonderful about the differences of textures and flavors between the ingredients.  This one is Mexican style with cilantro, pepitas, radish, avocado, and a lime vinaigrette.  I’ve made it twice already-once for me and once for family and it is a favorite with all.  Watermelon radish is a mild radish with a green skin and a white and hot pink flesh, hence the name.

watermelon radish

I’ve grown them in my garden this year and they are super easy, just like other radishes.  They only take about 4 weeks to mature and they are a great cover crop.  Easy to grow in pots too!

Radish and orange chopped salad
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 avocado, pitted peeled and diced

large handful cilantro, roughly chopped

2 watermelon radishes or 5 red radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds

1/2 a red onion, very thinly sliced (use less if you don’t care for onion)

1 cucumber, quartered and chopped

1/2 a small jicama, peeled and cut into match sticks

3 small to medium oranges, peeled and pith cut away, then cut crosswise into thin slices (take care to remove seeds)

1 small head romaine lettuce, washed dried and chopped

1/4c pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), toasted or kept raw if preferred

juice of 2-3 limes

3T avocado oil or other neutral tasting oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4t salt

Combine lime juice, oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and mix well.  Let sit at least 5 minutes while combining all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over the salad, mix well, and serve immediately.  I served this with black bean soup and it was perfect together!

Since its Saturday, I’m making my meal plan for the coming week, which includes 5 easy healthy dinners:

1.Tempeh walnut meatballs with zucchini noodles and sautéed thyme mushrooms

2. Sweet and sour pineapple and red bell with cashews and sugar snap peas over coconut rice

3. Burrito bowls: Black beans, rice, guacamole, Pico de gallo, sautéed fajita veggies (red and green bells, red onion), lettuce.

4. Spicy Thai coconut soup with mushrooms and edamame

5. Black eyed pea succotash and sautéed kale.

Love, A.

apple-herb vinaigrette and citrus salad

citrus salad raw cucumber rolls

Its winter here.  ITS FREEZING COLD.  I was finding myself quite sad as I scrolled (on Instagram) through lots of beautiful pictures of tropical fruit and watermelon from all the people I follow in Australia and Hawaii.

At the moment, we in California are experiencing a cold snap that is out of character for these parts.  My baby grapefruit tree that I planted this summer is dead, along with almost all my lettuces, ginger, snap peas, and most everything else in my winter garden.

So bummed.  I need to figure out some indoor gardening.  Anyways, I was just really needing some vibrant color in my food.

I came across a recipe in an old Bon Appetit for a Granny Smith apple vinaigrette that looked interesting.  I made it, but decided it definitely needed a little punch to it.

Enter herbs!  Parsley, cilantro, tarragon, thyme-any herb you desire would probably be good with this.  I chose to use cilantro because of the salad I used it on.

Herbs also offer TONS of health benefits.  They are loaded with minerals and micro-nutrients, anti-oxidants and detoxing qualities.  Cilantro chelates and binds with heavy metals in your body and carries them out of your digestive tract.

My salad was everything colorful- orange slices (pith cut away and oranges cut crosswise), watermelon radishes from the garden (or your local farmers market), pomegranate arils, and cilantro.

Sometimes I forget just how much colorful produce is in the winter.  I am a huge believer in making food look beautiful.  If its beautiful, it will get eaten, especially by children.  I’m pretty sure that’s why both my children love almost all fruits and veggies.

apple cider vinaigrette herb

Anyways, the dressing recipe!  Makes about 1 and 1/4 cups.

1 chopped Granny Smith apple, cored but unpeeled

1/4c raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar

1T fresh lime juice + 1t lime zest

1/4 parsley, cilantro, or combination of whatever herb you desire

1T minced shallot

1/2t raw sugar (omit if desired)

1/4c avocado* or other oil, adjust to how oily you like it (you could probably omit it too if you follow a low-fat diet)

salt +pepper

Purée apple, apple cider vinegar, and lime juice + zest in a blender, occasionally scraping down sides of blender with a spatula, until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing down on solids with spatula to extract all juice; discard solids. Return to blender and pulse with herbs, shallot and sugar. Whisk in oil until well blended. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Some of my ombre watermelon radishes that I used in the salad: (aren’t they just gorgeous!)

ombre watermelon radish

I used this as a dressing on my citrus salad, to dip my cucumber rolls in, and also on my green salad later that night.  It was fresh and simple and didn’t overpower any of the flavors in the salad.  Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Love, A.

*I get my avocado oil at Costco and i love it!  It has a totally neutral taste, is cold-pressed, and it withstands high temps without oxidizing and burning unlike olive and other oils.