Simple Weeknights with Sun Basket

 

I’m sure I learned quite an extent of where and how my food is produced growing up on the ranch, but it wasn’t until I graduated high school, began working on others’ farms, and explored the full extent of farm and food systems that I was able to cement my understanding that just about every farmer, no matter how ill we might think their production practices, believes wholeheartedly in what he or she is doing, and is putting their heart, soul, and of course body into the work. For a couple summers in college, I had a wild hare to go adventuring, so sought out farmers from Vermont, Iowa, California, northwest Washington, etc. in which to work. Somehow, I never quite made it to those places, as even then I guess I knew my calling was not in becoming a farmer.

 

 

During that search for adventure and learning, I remember one distinct phone conversation with Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm, in Guinda, California. It was the summer before I began grad school, a pursuit I was admittedly on the fence about. During that phone conversation, Dru shared about the importance of agricultural educators, of which I was looking to become, and we sort of mutually came to the conclusion that since I was still planning to return to school in the fall, something in the program was drawing me over the farming venture. It’s kind of funny now to realize that one phone conversation with a nice farmer I’ve never met resolved a lot of internal uncertainty about a career path which advice from friends, family, and mentors was not able to clear up.

 

 

Even though I have since stepped away from agricultural education in the formal sense, I put a lot of store in farmers: Farmers that will have me eating turnips right out of the ground at the beginning of my first visit, farmers that will re-name the agronomist’s scheduled farm tour as Rebecca’s Farm Tour, and then spend a whole summer having me traipse along behind, explaining little details all the day(s) long, and farmers that will offer a random girl some career advice over a long-distance phone call.

 

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When Sun Basket, a new healthy meal kit service that delivers organic ingredients and delicious, easy-to-make recipes for cooking at home, contacted me about sharing some of their meals on my blog, my first desire was to look into which farms they source from. While they source from a number of farms, ranches, and sustainable fisheries, I was excited to find that Full Belly Farm happens to be one of them. Having already had a good phone chat with one of Sun Basket’s farmers was quite a nice treat.

What I like about Sun Basket, other than their super quality ingredients, is that their recipes are created by their chef who was formerly the head at a James Beard award-winning restaurant. The meals are special but not too fancy for weeknight cooking, diverse, nutritious, and always feature seasonal ingredients. There are also gluten-free, vegetarian, and paleo options each week to choose from.

 

 

Sun Basket has an in-house nutritionist, the meals take approximately 30 minutes from prep to eating, and all the ingredients are sustainably sourced from the West Coast. Keeping the need for a little more local sourcing in mind, Sun Basket meals are available to those living in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho. A subscription includes delivery of three recipes per week for two, four or six people. William and I tried two dinners and their new, two-breakfasts option. Both dinners easily stretched beyond two servings to make three to four meals for us.

We tried Indian Red Lentil + Chard Stew with Naan, Honey-Ginger Tofu with Roasted Bok Choy + Forbidden Rice, Piña Colada Smoothies, and a Baby Kale Scramble with Chermoula. Our absolute favorite was the red lentil stew (William was a big fan of the naan), but I now have all the recipes and will gladly make each one again. With every recipe, the extra mile was taken in the seasonings/herbs/sauces to make it taste special. The fact that those seasonings, herbs, and sauces all came pre-measured and prepared helped to cut down the cooking time significantly. In essence, every recipe calls for a little prepping of veg, a little hands-on cooking, and a lot of flavor at the end for the effort.

 

I can now say I’m a big fan. I recommend Sun Basket to my friends and family trying to eat a little healthier throughout the week, and I’ll recommend it to you. If you live on the west coast, Sun Basket is offering $30 off for your first week of service. Subscriptions are weekly and you can cancel any time, so you can even try it once and then decide whether you wish to continue. I guarantee, it’s a nice treat to not have to plan, shop for, and prep meals.

 

$30 off Sun Basket
Get $30 off your Sun Basket order! Organic ingredients from the best West Coast farms and easy, healthy recipes delivered weekly.

Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto

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I’m taking a class right now called Redefining Nutrition. One of its texts is Marc David’s Nourishing Wisdom, and I recommend it to just about everyone. Essentially, it backs up a lot of what I already know about food and diets, that there is no one diet for everyone, that we are all especially unique when it comes to food and food preferences, and that our bodies are always changing, and our diets should naturally change with them to reflect the seasons and our changing needs.

 

I recently read too, Gena Hamshaw’s wonderful article, about tuning out the noise around new year’s diets, cleanses, and body-resolutions. It was written specifically for those in recovery from eating disorders and it resonated strongly with me as Gena brought to attention the extemely competitive nature of food and fitness-regimes. Essentially, Gena suggests the often difficult task of tuning out all the hype and just, “you do you.”

 

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Taking into consideration both readings, I sit ill with encouraging you to “go eat this recipe” that I share, because that’s not me. And perhaps it is not the recipe you need right now if you are doing you. I only share recipes here that are essentially what I am eating in this season, for me. William, who generally raves about my cooking, doesn’t always agree with me that he needs to eat another grain and bean bowl, and sometimes, he tells me, he just needs pizza instead of greens.

 

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Specifically, a little more about me: I am cold all winter. I cart my heating pad wherever I go and blast the car-heater for a whole hour on my drive home. I have to warm up my fingers and toes after only short snippets outside and I tell friends I no longer snowboard because it cost too much and is too long of a drive and I hurt my knee on ice that last time and never got over the fear of doing so again, but actually I don’t snowboard anymore because I spent half the day on the lift freezing and I’m actually more afraid of spending hours being cold. So when the new year rolls around, I don’t do smoothies or cold salads. I rarely drink a cold beverage between the months of October and April. I’m not into cleanse diets or “clean-eating”. Mostly, I want to eat comforting, nourishing, warming things that just happen to be good for me, in the way that good food or good company fills you up and doesn’t seem to have any caloric value or nutritional plan attached to it or necessary for its consumption.  This is me tuning out the noise and eating for me. I encourage you to get quiet enough to find out what you need and if you want to make a diet, exercise, or other wellness resolution this year, go for it. But make it one that is true to you.

 

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So as is my usual, I’m eating warm and wintery vegetables this January and this creamy, dreamy pumpkin risotto is one I know I’ll be making for years to come during the winter season. I first began making it way back in November and shared it at Thanksgiving with the fam. While I love all risotto, this one uses short grain brown rice, which gives it that creamy risotto texture which usually only comes with arborio or other traditional risotto rice varieties. It features caramelized onions, sage and rosemary, pumpkin puree, a hint of sweetness with a spoonful of maple syrup, and is rounded out with Progresso’s rich and savory vegetable stock. Now available in grocery stores nationwide in the soup aisle, Progresso has officially launched a new line of premium Cooking Stocks, made by simmering real bones, vegetables and herbs to create a flavor that’s close to homemade. I’ve made my own vegetable stock and I can honestly say Progresso’s tastes quite similar to my own version. Since this risotto itself is already more of a weekend endeavor, I like the shortcut of purchasing a nice cooking stock rather than making my own or using water only.

 

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Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto, serves 4

1/2 Tbs. coconut or olive oil

1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup short grain brown rice

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 Tbs. cashew cream (see note)

1 Tbs. maple syrup

3/4 tsp. salt

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed and leaves finely diced

1/2 Tbs. finely diced fresh sage

pinch of ground black pepper

3 cups Progresso Vegetable Stock

2 Tbs. toasted and chopped hazelnuts

  1. To caramelize the onion: warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring to coat. Decrease the heat to low and let the onion cook until dark golden brown, about 25 minutes. Stir as little as possible, but enough to keep the onion from sticking to the pan or burning.
  2. While the onion is caramelizing, parboil the rice by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Stir in the rice, decrease the heat to medium, and cook until the rice is half tender and slightly enlarged, about 12-15 minutes. Drain it and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly oil a 9×9 inch baking dish or 2-quart dutch oven.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin puree, cashew cream, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and herbs. Fold in the onions once they are caramelized and the rice. Scoop the mixture into the baking dish and spread it out so the top is nicely level.
  5. In a saucepan, over medium-high, bring the vegetable stock to just below boiling. Put the baking dish in the oven, and then slowly and carefully pour the hot vegetable broth over the top.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes. The risotto will still be a little loose and have a layer of liquid still on top. It will continue to soak up liquid as it cools.
  7. Remove from the oven and top with chopped hazelnuts. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Note: To make cashew cream, soak 1/4 cup raw cashews in water for at least an hour. Drain and add to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add 2-4 Tbs. water and puree until completely smooth. You now have your cream for this recipe and a little extra for another time. The extra freezes well.

As part of The Recipe Redux Progresso Comfort Food Flavor Boost Challenge, I received free samples of Progresso Cooking Stock mentioned in this post at no cost. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Progresso Cooking Stock and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 

Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts

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Be willing to move forward and find out what happens next.                 – Frank Shorter

 

December. There have been dinner parties, holiday parties, office-gifting, coffee catch-ups, super big deal good news, all-day baking sessions, making food with 100+ teenagers with differing food tastes, several nights and days of not enough sleep and feeling too tired, and then news that is challenging, both personally and in the world. Last week was my last big work-related push of the year and each morning I woke feeling like I could sleep for another five hours. Then in my morning runs, I could tell my body was a little “down” in a way that is not depression or hard workout related. When the going gets tough and I’ve too many things on my plate, I tend to put my head down and stubbornly power through. Alone with myself in the dark and the cold and the rain, I could tell when I stopped powering through and listened that I really needed a break that involves not socializing or busy-bodying but genuine self-care, reading a good book, journaling, wearing slippers and workout tights all day, sleeping in, listening to good music, eating and drinking warm foods, and practicing “being gentle“.

 

Fortunately, I took the weekend and did some of the above. I’m banking those slow days now particularly, as there are giant changes looming ahead. Somehow, I’ve come to one of those transitory periods when all the big life things are shifting at the same time. I’ve only shared pieces of these changes with a few of my closest and I haven’t processed yet. Instead, I’m keeping my head by focusing on this step I’m in. The rest will figure itself out.

 

In the meantime, it’s Recipe Redux day, and like last year, we’re cooking from books. If you read regularly, it’ll be fairly obvious that I’m a mega-fan of David and Luise at Green Kitchen Stories. I love both their cookbooks and I’ve been cooking from their latest, Green Kitchen Travels, all year long. One of the recipes I’ve made several times is their super vegetable-heavy chili with dark chocolate and walnuts. I’m quite experimental with food and will gladly make something new every single day but I’ll periodically circle back to recipes if I find them particularly good. This chili is my absolute favorite and it is also infinitely variable. I’ve changed up the types of veggies used each batch depending on the season and what I’ve got. I tend to stuff it with more of the root vegetables this time of year like parsnips, celeriac, turnips, and rutabagas.

 

This is a chili to warm hearts and revive during this busy season of dark nights. William and I gobble it up when the need for chili strikes — and it is a great one to serve to a crowd.

 

Cheers. I hope your December is merry.

 

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Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts, adapted from Green Kitchen Travels

serves 6-8

2 Tbs. olive or coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. cumin 
1  fresh chili, minced (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 celeriac (winter), peeled and chopped or 2 bell peppers, (summer) red & yellow, finely chopped 
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped
2 large stalks of celery with top greens, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried mixed beans (adzuki, kidney, black eye, borlotti), soaked and cooked or 3 14-oz. cans
2 14-oz. cans whole plum tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
1-2 ounces 80% dark chocolate, broken in pieces

  • Start by preparing all the vegetables.
  • Heat oil in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, cumin, chili, paprika and oregano, and let fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spices smell fragrant. Be careful so they don’t burn.
  • Add celeriac, carrot, parsnip and celery, and let cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the chopped walnuts, beans, tomatoes, water and salt and let cook for 30 minutes or more.
  • Now add the chocolate, starting with a lesser amount and tasting as you go until it is “enough.” I usually use about 1 1/2 ounces. Stir the chocolate around carefully and let cook for 5 more minutes. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Serve in bowls with fresh cilantro, if desired, and homemade cornbread.