Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kale-White Bean Stew {aka: 4-hour-workman-window-and-I-haven't-gone-to-the-market-but-need-to-make-dinner-during-those-4-hours-with-what-I-have-on-hand-oh-and-can-you-also-make-it-vegetarian-please soup}

It's a well-known fact that I am not in my school groove yet. If I see you around town, or on the sidelines {of three sports x two kids}, and you ask, "how's your year going so far?", I may very well look at you like a deer in the headlights. 

We have turned a corner. Apparently gone are the days when my kids tumbled off the schoolbus, played in the yard til dinner, and we all sat down together at a reasonable time. Now, they arrive home minutes before my chauffeuring begins. Afternoon and evening activities overlap. Homework has become more plentiful. And there's still only one of me. 

Oh, and, I am not willing to forego healthy meals, or family dinners. 

Wednesdays are unique in that my children only have half-days of school. It's funny because I remember when they started preschool I used to think that 4 hours off was an amazingly long time. Now, with four other normal length school days/week, I sort of treat Wednesday as a wash.

However, today found me halfway though a {truth be told: disorganized} week of meals, marooned at home during a 4-hour workman window {the same 4 hours the kids are in school}, needing dinner prepared before 12:30. And I hadn't done much grocery marketing. Did I throw up my hands in despair and say we'll just go to Station Eats in between tennis lessons, a baseball game, and the first big middle school project that involves poster board? No. Because mama is trying to get back to svelte… my older child came home from camp a vegetarian…. and if you make me sit around the house for four hours waiting for you, you better believe I'm going to put that time to good use by cooking something. The result of rifling through the pantry and freezer or ingredients?

Kale-White Bean Stew 
{aka: 4-hour-workman-window-and-I-haven't-gone-to-the-market-but-need-to-make-dinner-during-those-4-hours-with-what-I-have-on-hand-oh-and-can-you-also-make-it-vegetarian-please Soup}

olive oil
frozen pearl onions {or a chopped onion}
canned white beans {drained and rinsed}
kale {chopped, fresh or frozen}
a jar of TJ's bruschetta {or a can of diced tomatoes and some garlic}
veggie broth
orzo {or couscous, quinoa, farro, wild rice, brown rice}

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot, over medium heat. Saute the onions until golden, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the grain you added is cooked. 

Reheats beautifully {if you need to dine in shifts}. Freezes perfectly {if you want to make a big batch and freeze some for a busy night ahead}.

I know some of you like me to be more precise with my measurements… Here is what I added today, which made 8 servings {4 for tonight; 4 to freeze}:

two 32 oz cartons veggie broth
one 12 oz jar TJ's bruschetta
two 15 oz cans white beans
16 oz frozen pearl onions
16 oz frozen kale
1 Cup TJ's Harvest Grains blend

Then, while one child was creating a math presentation and the other was systematically destroying the kitchen that had just been cleaned-- I mean, sewing a Medieval costume out of felt-- I slathered some good butter on French bread and wrapped it in foil ready to go into the oven for a few minutes, in anticipation of a quick family dinner in between practices tonight.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

the rumors are true

The rumors are true... I have my pinky toe back in the blog.

I'm still not sure if I am jumping back into blogging with both feet, but enough people have asked me to share how I am juggling healthy mealtimes {with crazy chauffeuring} this Fall / losing the summer bloat / staying sane parenting a middle schooler / dealing with one child who is vegetarian etc. that I decided at least my new weekly meal plan idea was worth a post. But, I haven't had the time to photograph and write that post. Hmm. Telling? So, for the time being, you can catch some recipe ideas, food crushes, and general rants and raves about motherhood over on my new Facebook page, swellmom. See you over there, and maybe back here soon. We'll see...

Thursday, May 15, 2014


When I started The Full Plate Blog, my goal was to combine my personal chef/make-ahead meal expertise with the daily demands of being a busy mom. I loved the feedback from all of you, sharing your mealtime success stories after you gave my recipes a whirl. More and more busy parents feeding their families well-- even on the busiest of days.

It's hard to believe that when I started this blog, five years ago, my youngest was napping 2x/day. The blog was a creative outlet, and gave me a sense of purpose beyond what I viewed as my first priority: being a balanced and happy mom. And over the years, this blog has really taken off, winning multiple awards and garnering a bigger and bigger audience. 

But the rhythm of my days has changed so much in five years.

And so, I have made the difficult decision to take a break from blogging.

Temporary or forever? I'm not sure. If I really miss it, I can always come back… or I'll find a way of sharing my recipes in a way that encourages a more healthy lifestyle for myself.

I want to thank all of you for supporting The Full Plate Blog. It's been an awesome run. Your tales of how it changed mealtimes for the better made me smile. And while I was always surprised to be stopped in the supermarket aisles, I loved helping you figure out how to encourage a picky eater, successfully reheat some masterpiece straight from the freezer, or quickly gather the ingredients for a dinner you could whip up when you got home from chauffeuring kids to and fro.

I intend to leave all of the recipes-to-date up so you can continue to access your favorites, either by typing an ingredient into the search bar, or scrolling down the right hand column to access the various categories. And, the instant download to help you master make-ahead meals will still be available for purchase {at the sale price} through the summer months, so fret not about what the heck's for dinner.

Here's to "bonus hours" all around and continued mealtime success!       - Eila

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cooking Light's Dinnertime Survival Guide review + giveaway!

One of my all-time favorite food bloggers {and mom extraordinaire}, Sally, just released her "Cooking Light's Dinnertime Survival Guide"… and it's fabulous

Oh, and in case you were wondering if Sally is as cute, peppy and knowledgeable in person as she is in the pages of this cookbook? She is. But, of course, I had to try several of the recipes to make sure they were as awesome as the ones on her blog, Real Mom Nutrition. As you may recall, we have a bit of a mutual love-fest going on. She loves my make-ahead meals, and I love her RD expertise, coupled with her real life, simple solutions to getting dinner on the table, since she's a super busy mom like all of us. 

Deciding which recipe to try first was the hardest part. 

I ran a few by my kids, and we gave the "Black Bean Soup" {page 235} a whirl first. After all, it was Cinco de Mayo….

Gotta love those recipes that take mere minutes to make...

dump this in, dump that in… give it a stir...

add some veggie broth… pop the lid on….

and voila! Or, "ole!" might be more apropos in this case.

Yum. So easy, and everyone loved it. 

Next up? A few friends were raving about the "Peanut Butter-Coconut Chicken Fingers" {page 122). I like recipes that only have a few ingredients, and this one fit the bill. The outer coating is a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, unsweetened coconut and ginger.

And before you roll it in that crispy coating, you simply dip the chicken tenders into a blend of coconut milk, eggs, and in my case, almond butter.

I doubled the batch, knowing this was a meal that would reheat well. Oh, and I also baked them instead of sautéing or pan-frying them. To go this route, simply spray your rimmed baking sheet with your choice of cooking oil and bake them at 425 until cooked through, about 10 minutes, flipping them halfway.

Another winner!

Then tonight, I had a request, by my one child who is currently {and maybe forever} vegetarian, for a hearty meatless meal. It was a drizzly and gray spring day here in CT, so a perfect night to give the comforting "Curried Carrots and Lentils" {page 75} a test drive.

I usually have carrots in the fridge and lentils in the pantry, making this one of those great "what can I make for dinner with what I have on hand" recipes. I made a few modifications: three cloves of garlic {instead of one}, no ground red pepper {trying to keep it tame}, and smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika {which I highly recommend-- it gave the dish even more depth}.

Oh, and I used veggie broth instead of water, added a whole quart instead of 3 1/2 cups of water…and I added everything to the pot instead of taking things out and adding them back in {because I believe in shortcuts… and because I'm not very good at following directions on recipes}.

This is another one of those "bonus hour" dinners, where it's got to do its' thing for about a 1/2 hour…

and if I didn't have 1st grade reading homework to oversee, I might have used that cooking time to kick back and read a magazine. But it was nice to be able to offer my undivided attention tonight.

The verdict? My vegetarian-leaning son said it was "delicious!", my self-proclaimed "meatatarian" son said, "yum, it tastes like it has sausage in it" {thank you smoked paprika}, and my husband kept making cracks about us now having "Meatless Thursdays" but you'll note that all the bowls were basically licked clean... 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that yours truly has a mention in the cookbook too! Check out page 37 for one of my freezer tricks. 

And {drum roll}, as a thank you for being a part of her cookbook, Sally has given me a copy to share with one of my readers. To be entered to win, please leave a comment below letting me know why you need this book! For a second chance to win, "like" Real Mom Nutrition on Facebook, and leave me a comment letting me know you've done so! A lucky winner will be chosen on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 8am Eastern Time by May the most desperate mom win! {Just kidding.}

Please note: I was sent a complimentary copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own. I wouldn't tell you it's great if I didn't really think so! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

make-ahead breakfast idea: gluten-free blueberry-almond baked french toast casserole in honor of celiac awareness month

In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, I recently adapted one of our family's favorite make-ahead brunch recipes to make it gluten-free.

Made with just a few ingredients: a loaf of gluten-free bread, 2-3 cups of blueberries, a cup of nuts {optional}, some citrus zest {optional, but adds nice flavor}, 8 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of your choice of milk {dairy, soy, coconut, almond}, cinnamon and vanilla, I love this recipe because it can be assembled before you have guests over… or baked and then tucked in the fridge for a delicious breakfast you can reheat on busy weekdays. Click here to grab the recipe for Gluten-Free Blueberry-Almond Baked French Toast Casserole that I recently shared with our local market.

When gluten is not an issue, I like making it with LaBrea's Pecan-Raisin bread, so Udi's Guten-Free Cinnamon Raisin bread was a great substitution, but it is equally good with Udi's Gluten-Free Whole Grain loaf as well.

Yes, he wanted to help...

You'll know it's cooked through when a butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve with a drizzle of good maple syrup. Mmm. Perfection.

Hope your family likes this recipe as much as mine does! Click here for the recipe if you'd like to pin or bookmark it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Community Plates: fighting hunger… right here in Fairfield County, CT

Like many of you, I am fortunate that I can run into our local supermarkets and load my car up with nourishing food so I can feed my family well, even on the busiest of days. And, while I have mastered the art of "re purposing leftovers" to cut down on our personal food waste, I never really thought about what happens to all of the unsaleable {e.g.: past due date}-- but still fresh and usable-- foods leftover in our local markets and restaurants. What you see above is one day's worth of unsaleable food, graciously donated by Trader Joe's Darien, CT store… which I was driving down the road and dropping at Person-to-Person's food bank.  And below, another day, another car load going between Trader Joe's Darien and New Covenant House in Stamford, CT.

How did I come to fill my SUV to the gills with all of that amazing food? Simple: Community Plates matches volunteer "food runners" {like me; like you--hint! hint!} with generous food donors {local supermarkets/restaurants} and very, very appreciative recipients of this food {shelters/soup kitchens/food banks}. It is so easy to volunteer. Simply sign up to be a food runner and you'll get access to an online schedule that shows all of the open "food runs" in your area. Show up ready to hoist a few crates or bags into your car, drive a few miles down the road to unload them-- and voila. You have made a difference. A huge one. You can do as many or as few runs as you'd like. Whatever fits your schedule.

In addition to current Fairfield County, CT food runs in Norwalk, Rowayton, Stamford, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Danbury, and Greenwich, rumor has it that a few new daily runs might be popping up in New Canaan between both Walter Stewart's Market and Mrs. Green's Market, in addition to the weekly donations that come from Elm, so even more food runners will be needed! Please consider being a food runner. It's so easy.

Plus, just think about how much time all of us moms already spend driving to and from these towns on our normal errand circuit… add in a single food run every week or two-- or even just every once in a while-- and just think about the difference you could make in a family's mealtimes.  Need more convincing? Before we did our first run, I watched this video with my son. This was where we were going to be delivering that car load of crates above. Powerful, hmm?

And you're probably wondering what was in all of those crates too… I mean, is it really worth the time to be a food runner?

Look at all of this amazing food that would have gone to waste...

Instead, it was donated-- and because of volunteer "food runners"-- a family who might be going through a tough time had access to the same nourishing foods I take for granted.

 So, please, join me as a food runner. Click here to sign up or learn more.

Let's fill our trunks, and help fill the bellies and hearts of the food insecure right here in our community.

To see if Community Plates is organizing food runs in your area, click here.