Mary Helen Leonard, author of The Natural Beauty Solution and professionally trained culinary instructor, shares recipes, projects, tips, and stories about living a more natural, handmade, and creative life with her family in Austin, Texas.
If you're looking to kick sugary or gluten-heavy breakfasts to the curb I encourage you to consider the sweet potato bowl. Slightly starchy root veggies provide a deeply satisfying base for a morning meal that is both hearty and delicious - especially with the help of few flavorful accoutrements.
For me, breakfast has long been a challenging meal. I grew up reaching for bagels or bowls of cereal, and even after spending my adulthood surrounded by brilliant food people I still struggle with finding ways to get away from that morning carb habit. It wasn't until I started leaning on sweet potatoes that I really got into a healthier breakfast groove.
It isn't always easy to set aside the time to make (or even eat!) a hot breakfast, but I almost always feel better when I do. I've managed to streamline the process a bit by cheating with frozen veggies, but you can make this even better by throwing some fresh kale into the steamer or roasting your own sweet potatoes ahead of time. Try swapping out kale for any other green vegetable. Chard, spinach, or asparagus would be great.
The sweet potatoes could also be replaced with another root veggie. Beets, turnips, or red potatoes would all be delicious ways to mix this recipe up. If frying an egg in the morning turns out to be too big a hassle, try using hard-boiled eggs instead or swapping the egg for a quicker pre-cooked protein like tofu, black beans, or grilled chicken.
Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl Makes one big serving
1 cup sweet potato, peeled, diced, and roasted (recipe here)
1/2 cup spinach, steamed
1/2 cup avocado, diced
1 egg, fried
Optional garnish: lime juice, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, or Japanese mayo
Prepare the sweet potato and spinach ahead of time in large batches. You can roast your own sweet potatoes at 350F for about an hour and steam your own spinach over simmering water for about 2 minutes. If available, you can use frozen pre-cooked sweet potato and spinach instead.
When you are ready to eat, quickly heat the sweet potato and spinach in a microwave or toaster oven.
Meanwhile, fry up a fresh egg (directions here) and dice up half an avocado.
Throw it all together in a bowl and top with whatever garnishes you like. My personal favorite combination is lime, soy sauce, and a splash of hot sauce.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SamsClubMag #CollectiveBias
I woke up this morning, stuck my head out of the front door and actually shivered. I even thought for a moment about the possibility that my child could need a sweatshirt for his ride to school.
People, it's really happening. Fall is here!
I am so ready. I've long been a summer person, but this year I spent most of the dog days here in Texas hunkered down inside my house with the air conditioning on. Maybe I was depressed - or just burnt out on sunshine or 100+ degree temperatures. Either way, I feel the fog lifting with every dropping degree and I couldn't be happier. There is nothing like that first cool, crispy breath of autumn. Every year in Texas it seems to look the same - painted with a bright blue sky and enjoyed by rolling down the car windows for the first time in forever.
Speaking of cool crispy things, how about apples? They are pretty much the quintessential autumn food as far as I'm concerned. I've been going a little crazy with them lately and I'm not even close to letting it go. This afternoon I put together a little something savory by pairing sweet apples with earthy mushrooms and savory miso. I don't want to make any promises, but these pork chops might just blow your mind.
They are moist and juicy, dripping with pan sauce, and stuffed with a blend of tasty autumn ingredients that couldn't be more seasonally appropriate.
This is one of those recipes that may sound a little more complicated than it actually is. The marinade, which is made simply by whisking together some key ingredients, doubles as a pan sauce when cooked along with the pork chops. Finishing the pork chops in the oven helps to keep the meat tender and juicy. Try serving this delicious main dish with hearty brown rice and a roasted vegetable like acorn squash or sweet potato.
Apple Miso Pork Chops with Mushroom Stuffing
A sweet and savory stuffed pork chop recipe made with fresh apples and mushrooms.Serves 2
Whisk together miso paste, onion powder, soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin until smooth. Add the almond oil and whisk until well-blended. Add the apple cider last, and mix once more. This is the marinade.
Place the pork chops flat on a cutting board and slice them parralel to the board to butterfly the meat. Cut into the meat all the way to the far edge, stopping just before cutting through. This will make a sort of pocket in the pork chop. Repeat with the second chop, then pound both pork chops with a mallet to tenderize them.
Coat each pork chop in marinade, then pack them into a close-fitting container or plastic bag along with the remaining marinade. Let the chops sit, refrigerated, for at least one hour.
Prep the stuffing by slicing your ingredients as thinly as possible, and setting each aside in its own separate bowl. When you pork chop has finished marinating, preheat the oven to 350F, and set a large skillet over the stove. Turn the burner on to medium-high heat. When the pan is sizzling hot, add a few teaspoons of cooking oil to coat the pan.
Fry the shallots first, cooking them for 3-5 minutes, or until the soften and clear just a little. Remove them from the pan, add a little more oil, if needed, and begin frying the mushrooms. It's important not to crowd the mushrooms during this step, so if you are working with a smaller pan, try frying just half of the mushrooms at a time. Cook the mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes, just long enough to brown them a little.
When all of the mushrooms are cooked, add them back to the pan along with the shallots and the apples. Cook everything for about 1 minute, just long enough to warm the apples. Turn the heat off, then add the scallions and season with a dash of salt and pepper. Toss everything together, then transfer to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator. Pull them from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and reserve the remainder of marinade for later. Stuff each pork chop with prepared stuffing as full as possible. You may have more stuffing than you need. the remainder can be served as a side. Just be careful not to cross-contaminate the stuffing while filling the raw chops. That means don't use any utensil to touch the stuffing that you also use to fill the pork chops. In other words, no double dipping!
Turn the skillet back on to medium heat. When hot, add a few more teaspoons of oil to coat the skillet, then carefully place the stuffed chops into the pan. Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes, then pour the remaining marinade over the top of the chops, flooding the pan with sauce.
Turn off the stove burner and cover the skillet with a lid or with aluminum foil. Place the covered skillet into the oven and roast for 8 - 10 minutes, or until a thermometer shows the internal temperature of the stuffed chops as 165F.
Transfer the pork chops to plates and spoon the cooked marinade from the bottom of the pan over the top of each pork chop. Serve immediately.
I shopped for the main ingredients for my recipe at Sam's Club. The shelves were bursting with fresh ingredients like crispy salad fixings and seasonal fruits and veggies. I was especially impressed with their prices on apples and pumpkins. I may have to make another trip soon to work on more autumn goodies.
Sam's Club can be a wonderful resource for whole ingredients and natural cooking. The food selection includes a great range of produce, meats, and even seafood. Buying main ingredients like these in bulk is actually a really practical way to make cooking at home easier.
I like to stock my freezer with bulk ingredients so that I always have the basics I need to throw together an easy dinner. Not having to run to the store for ingredients before every meal can help save you time, money, and precious mental energy.
Sam's Club also offers in-club health screenings for members on the second Saturday of EVERY month. The next screening will take place on October 8. (Check with your local Sam's Club for more details on this program.) Sam's Club offers hearing and vision services, a pharmacy, over the counter medications, and a great selection of basic ingredients for healthy cooking - all great resources for your healthy lifestyle.
Do you shop in bulk for fresh foods or natural pantry ingredients? Do you have any tricks to share for using up fresh produce quickly or keeping large purchases fresh longer? Shower us with your wisdom in the comments below.
It's really true what they say about not knowing what you've got till it's gone. This isn't always a bad thing, of course. Sometimes something you think you enjoy as-is can become even better when it loses something.
Take cold-brew coffee, for example. I've always been a coffee lover, but it wasn't until I started drinking cold brew that I realized how burnt and bitter the coffee from my electric coffee maker tasted. When my coffee lost that particular layer of flavor my eyes opened to a whole new world of deliciousness.
Cold brew coffee is incredibly smooth and mellow. It has the rich flavor of coffee that I love but it's missing a certain quality that I have since come to loathe. Some might call it "toasty", but personally I have come to love my coffee tasting less acidic and less, well, overheated. The smooth flavor of cold brew also makes skipping the sugar and sweeteners a little easier.
All I need is a splash of milk to fall in love with my hot morning cup of java or my afternoon treat over ice. It's a far cry from my previous Italian syrup habit which was definitely racking up my daily sugar intake.
Oh, and did I mention that cold brew typically has about 3x the caffeine of conventionally brewed coffee? Yowza. It's a good idea to treat your cold brew as concentrate and to dilute it accordingly but the truth is that I indulge in the occasional full-power cup.
It makes me feel alive.
So, if you have never tried cold brew coffee I would highly recommend checking it out. It's been my "new" favorite thing for a couple of years now. The only big drawback is that a cold brew habit can get a little expensive - that is if you buy your concentrate online or at the grocery store.
Luckily, making your own cold brew at home is really easy - like stupid easy.
The best part? Cold brew makes coffee taste so good that you can even use the cheapest, most generic, store-brandiest coffee and STILL have it taste good. Thrifty people rejoice!
All you need to get going is a quart-sized mason jar with a re-usable lid and something called a nut milk bag. This same method will work just fine with cheesecloth or another type of strainer - just make sure the mesh is very, very fine or you will wind up with cloudy (possibly even gritty) coffee. I've actually used this kind of metal mesh strainer with great results.
Tip: If you are grinding your own beans go with a coarse grind to help make the cold brew even easier to strain.
I hope you give this recipe a try! Trust me when I tell you that you won't miss the expense of fancy store-bought cold brew OR the burnt acidic flavor from your electric coffeemaker once those things are gone. For once, parting won't be such sweet sorrow.
Add water to the jar until it is completely saturating the ground coffee and filling the jar.
Screw a re-usable cap onto the jar - right over the edges of the nut milk bag. You should be able to see the very edges of the bag peeking out from beneath the tightened cap.
Place the jar in your refrigerator for about 48 hours.
Strain the coffee from the jar by pulling out the nut milk bag and squeezing the contents gently.*
When you are ready to enjoy your concentrated cold brew make sure and dilute at a 1:3 ratio. That means 2/3 cup water for every 1/3 cup of cold brew. The remaining concentrate should last for at least one week in the refrigerator.
*Alternatively, you could add the grounds directly to the water (sans bag) and then strain the whole jar through the bag after the grounds have finished soaking. It doesn't really make much difference which order you do this in. It's a personal preference thing and if you try it both ways you will quickly discover which method you find less messy or troublesome.
Once upon a time my husband and I went on a juice cleanse. Being the types of people who enjoy taking things past the point of reason, we decided that a 30-day cleanse would be a great way to start off our relationship with vegetable juice. If you're going to do something a little crazy, why not go all the way, right?
The first week was awful. My head hurt. My stomach ached. I saw stars, used curse words a lot, and spent most of my time sleeping. Then, after six or seven days without solid food a fire lit beneath me. Suddenly I felt full of life. I was light on my feet and totally energized - a total juice convert. That energy kept up for a while, and as I became more and more inventive with my juice recipes I started to wonder if I'd ever go back to eating solid food again!
But then, a little less than a week from my thirty-day goal my juice cleanse was foiled. One might expect that I would have fallen victim to the usual troublemakers - like ice cream, cheeseburgers, or PIZZA! The truth was far less sexy. Of the many temptations I had encountered during my fast, the siren that finally slayed me was a simple one - a plain old steamed head of broccoli.
I was prepping the broccoli from our CSA delivery to be frozen when hunger struck. Glistening with steam and fresh from the pot, that luscious green vegetable just looked so good to me. I figured that just one bite couldn't hurt. Then I though, well, maybe even two would be OK. It wouldn't kill me to add a little salt and lemon, would it? Maybe a squirt of olive oil?
Ten minutes later the entire head of broccoli had disappeared and I didn't even want to think the word juice ever again. Since that day I've had a much more sincere appreciation for the delicious simplicity of cruciferous vegetables. While they are unforgettable steamed with salt and lemon, roasting these hearty veggies on a sheet pan is my very favorite way to enjoy them. In fact, they are so good this way that I could probably devour an entire sheet pan even without being on the hungry end of a juice cleanse.
Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower Makes around six 1-cup servings
This simple method for preparing broccoli and cauliflower can easily be dressed up or customized by adjusting the seasoning. For example, you might try adding garlic, ginger and red pepper to give the veggies and Asian flavor. A sprinkle of thyme, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper is a great way to give it an Italian flair.
3 cups broccoli florets
3 cups cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 lemon (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Toss the broccoli and cauliflower florets in a large mixing bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Spread the veggies over a sheet pan, then roast until tender (about 10 - 15 minutes)
A simple Japanese rice seasoning using healthy ingredients like flax seed meal, sesame seeds, and kelp powder.
I know some of you might be thinking "Furi-what now?". I'll admit, furikake is not the most mainstream condiment out there. It is, however, one of my personal favorites, and something that I've loved the heck out of since my Japanese restaurant days.
Furikake is basically a topping for rice (and also sometimes noodles or other dishes). It's often made from sesame seeds and seaweed but there are lots of different varieties and flavors using everything from garlic to dried egg to spice things up.
Depending on the selection of Japanese foods at your grocery store you may be able to find a jar during a normal grocery trip. Or, if your city has an Asian market (we have some GREAT ones in Austin) than you could even find several types of furikake to try out.
I've been meaning to make my own furikake for some time now, and was finally inspired to take the plunge while brainstorming ways to sneak more omega into my diet. Ground flaxseed blends into furikake quite well - giving the seasoning a mild nutty flavor that works really well with sesame and seaweed.
You can shake this lovely stuff all over rice, quinoa, noodles, or roasted vegetables to add a dash of salty, umami flavor.
My personal favorite way to enjoy furikake is simple. I start with a small bowl of freshly steamed rice, squirt a little soy sauce or liquid amino on top, then sprinkle the bowl liberally with furikake. This makes an amazing side or a wholesome snack - the perfect comfort food for anyone who loves rice as much as I do.
Combine the sesame seeds and flax seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat. Make sure to continuously move the ingredients in the skillet by gently shaking the pan as they toast. When you start to smell the sesame they are finished. Immediately remove the seeds from the pan into a small mixing bowl.
Add the kelp granules and mix well.
Allow the mixture to cool completely before transferring it to a small jar or shaker with an airtight lid.