White bean and pasta soup

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

This soup is a metaphor for how I’m feeling about this holiday season. (As always, to skip this meditation on holiday blues and just get to the damned soup already, scroll to the next photo!)

As you can see, the dry pasta is vibrant pink and white adorableness. But when cooked, it loses some color and is a rather bleh peach and cream. It still tastes good, but doesn’t live up to the promise of the shiny and bright dry version. I feel that way about the holidays: The idea is one thing, but the experience is another.

I have the holiday blues. They came early this year, which is probably because Thanksgiving was so early and now we’re officially in the holiday season even though Halloween was 10 seconds ago and it’s all going too fast and increasing my seasonal ennui.

But if I’m honest, I always have the sneaking suspicion that everyone else is more engaged in life and more present in their lives and more, I don’t know, successful at life than I am. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Unsurprisingly, I have to take social media with a HUGE grain of salt and constantly remind myself that these idealized versions of life aren’t the whole picture. So, I guess this is my friendly reminder to all of YOU that ‘tis the season of matching jammies and perfect cookies, which are fun and pretty and inspiring, but also staged and only a sliver of someone’s day.

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. Alphabet pasta is a perennial favorite in our home, but the snowflakes are a seasonal contender for favorite pasta shape. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

Anyway, make this soup! Seriously though, one way I try to combat the holiday blues is to be mindful about what I’m eating. This soup is more nutritious if you use a whole grain or grain-free pasta (or skip it entirely). However, M’s soup consumption increases dramatically if there’s a fun shape in there.

And if you can, make the broth yourself. It’s light years better than the stuff in paper cartons from the store. And you can make a lot at a time and freeze it for later. And the chicken can be frozen for later meals too!

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

White bean and pasta soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried rosemary, minced
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups herbed chicken stock (recipe below)
1½ cups dried pasta, cooked in separate water
Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat the olive oil over a medium low flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the white beans and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

While the soup simmers, cook the pasta separately. When the pasta is done, add it to the slightly cooled soup.

Top with cheese before serving.  

Yield: 7-8 cups soup, about 4 big bowls  

Herbed chicken stock

1 chicken, cut into pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks), skin and bones included
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 large carrot
1 stalks celery
2 sticks rosemary
8-10 sticks thyme
10-12 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
10-14 cups water, enough to cover the ingredients
1 Tbsp salt

Add all of the ingredients to a large stockpot and stir to distribute the salt. Cover with water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 1½ hours. If a lot of the water evaporates, add more to maintain the original level of water.

Let cool. Strain the broth with a fine mesh sieve. Remove the bones and skin of the chicken, but save the meat in a separate container for other meals.   

Yield: About 12 cups of stock; one entire chicken, dark and light meat

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

Raspberry buckle

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Let's talk about the idea of healthifying desserts, shall we? Because I'm not totally sold on this strategy even though I keep doing it. Part of me thinks that boosting nutrition and finding balance (you can eat coffee cake, just make it a spelt coffee cake with less sugar, less gluten, and more protein!) is always good. But alternatively, might I actually indulge less if I just ate a small amount of the high fat, high sugar baked thing instead of trying to make spelt happen? Am I just kidding myself that a whole grain, barely sweet version is going to cut it when my real craving is for the doughy, crumbly, buttery, brown sugary coffee cake of my summer-on-the-jersey-shore dreams?

Ugh. If only there was one straightforward strategy that would always work.

I guess a wiser person than me would just accept that what we need from day to day or hour to hour can change. But I like predictability and this isn't cutting it.

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But, for now, we have an ever-so-slightly healthified raspberry buckle that is legitimately delicious on its own merits. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour and swapped out spelt flour for most of the white flour and reduced the amount of overall sugar.

I mostly left the crumble topping alone. I always want the first bite to pack more of a punch, which masks some of the healthier swaps later.

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I've made this cake without fruit which produces a straightforward coffee cake that's light and airy and not too sweet. I've also swapped coconut sugar for the brown sugar in the actual cake and it's good, but not great. The texture and bake time are the same, but I could really taste the coconut sugar and I didn't completely love it.

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This recipe also works best in a 9x9 pan. If you only have an 8x8, reduce the amount of batter in the pan by about 1/2 cup and either bake the extra in a ramekin or toss it. Or, if you have a deeper 8x8 pan (one with higher sides), you can bake the whole recipe, but may need a few extra minutes at the end.

Raspberry buckle
 

For the streussel topping:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp white sugar
½ cup AP flour
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

For the cake:
2 Tbsp butter, melted slightly
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk (I use whole, but any will do)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup apple sauce
1½ cups spelt flour
½ cup AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (do not defrost)

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, melt the 4 Tbsp of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Cut up the butter and add the rest of the streussel topping ingredients. Mix with a fork until the mixture is fully combined and the texture of wet sand. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter for 20 seconds in the microwave. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Measure the milk. Add the egg and whisk lightly. Add to the sugar and butter and stir well to combine. Add the vanilla and apple sauce and stir again.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until no streaks of flour remain.

Gently fold in the raspberries.

Pour the batter into a greased 9x9 pan and top with the streussel mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yield: 16 squares

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Mujadara soup

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Well, we closed out 2017 with a bang. And by "bang," I mean, trip to the emergency room. Someone had horrible stomach pains that looked like appendicitis or a hernia because someone has been holding it rather than going in the potty. I was like, "Ethan, come on. You're an adult. just poop in the damned potty." So, I was more than glad to welcome 2018 this morning. (Did we think for one second I was making it to midnight last night? That's hilarious.)  

In honor of a more auspicious start to this year, I'm posting a lentil soup recipe that combines two of my favorite mujadara recipes from Deborah Madison and Madhur Jaffrey. (I've also seen it spelled moudjendra or muhjadarrah.) My dad and I ate this dish a lot when I was a teen. I went through a vegetarian phase and he went through an only-eating-lentils-because-heart-disease phase.

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There is something so warm and comforting to me about this Middle Eastern dish. While it's usually eaten as a side, it's hearty enough to eat as a main course or, as I've done here, to turn into a one-pot soup that makes a great lunch with a piece of crusty bread or toasted pita.

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And, of course, eating lentils (or any round bean, really) is supposed to be good luck for the new year and eating anything green (the color of money) ushers in a prosperous new year.

You know what else this soup has? Lots and lots of fiber. So if your New Year's resolution has anything to do with gut health, potty training, weight loss, overall health, or home cooking, here's a soup for you. If you didn't make any resolutions and this is just another day, then make it "just another day" featuring delicious soup. If this straightforward, but somewhat time consuming dish isn't your bag, check out last year's lentil recipe.

 

Mujadara soup

2-3 large onions (4-5 small ones), sliced into 1/4 inch rounds or half-moons
1 Tbsp salted butter, olive oil, or ghee
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 large cloves garlic
1 1/4 cup green lentils
3/4 cup long grain brown rice (basmati is great)
10 cups chicken or veggie stock (homemade if possible)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 bunch lacinto kale (also called dinosaur or Tuscan kale)

Heat the butter and oil over a medium flame. Slice your onions and chop your garlic. Set garlic aside. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the onions and salt. Saute the onions until they are a rich brown color, about 20-30 minutes.

While your onions are caramelizing, measure and rinse your lentils and rice and set aside. Check the onions every few minutes and adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning them.

Once the onions are browned, add the garlic and saute for one minute, or until fragrant.

Add the lentils and the stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back down to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add the rice, cover, and continue simmering on medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

While the soup simmers, wash and chop your kale.

After 30 minutes, check the rice for doneness. I, personally, like a bit of bite left in the rice, but if you like it done more, cook for another 5-10 minutes, or to your liking. (Bear in mind that the rice will cook more upon reheating the soup as well.)

Add the kale and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir. Taste for seasoning and thickness and add more salt or stock as needed.

Yield: 64 oz or about 8 cups of soup

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Chia, cherry, and chocolate cookie bark

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Remember two weeks ago when I talked about the danger of expectations around the holidays and how we were going to be easy on ourselves and M? HA! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, universe. I shouldn't have taunted you like that. (As always, scroll to the next photo for more about food and less about life with a toddler!)

My body, our house, and our toddler's frustration tolerance have all deteriorated at the same time. We moved into the house that "didn't need any work" about four months ago and in that time we've had two floods in the basement; the oven, washer, and now dryer have all broken at different points; we had a leak from the third floor bathroom that traveled all the way to a light fixture on the first floor; and now we have to replace the furnace vent.

And while there are daily magical moments in which I'm stunned by M's hilariousness and creativity, there are also moments where I feel like screaming into the abyss. He's just such a toddler. He'll ask to go outside and we'll say, "Sure. Let's put on your clothes/shoes/whatever," but he seems to hear, "NO! WE'RE NEVER GOING OUTSIDE AND YOU WILL STAY INSIDE EATING GRUEL AND STARING AT THE WALL FOR THE REST OF TIME! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!" Or, at least, that's my interpretation based on the intensity of his reaction sometimes.

And potty training is going nowhere fast.

And my back went out for the 500th time.

I'm just drowning in "shoulds." We should have started potty training sooner. I should read parenting books to figure out a better way to handle tantrums and the lack of listening. I should be more proactive about my back by losing weight and doing more strength training. We should know how to fix stupid things like the dryer.

Mostly, I should stop fretting because it could be worse. Back pain isn't the end of the world. A toddler not listening and tantruming is par for the course. A new house will always come with quirks and there's a learning curve when it's your first time owning one. So on top of feeling bad, I feel bad for feeling bad.

I think part of my problem is that the state of the world and our country has me at an 8.5 most of the time, so little things put me right up to 10. How do you turn off fear and anger about what's happening daily? How do you push forward knowing that so much needs to be fixed and is only getting worse? AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Okay, I'm done.

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So, why isn't cookie bark more of a thing? It's a lot easier than making individual cookies and takes less time to bake than a skillet cookie. I mean, the topping for this crumble I made over the summer is basically a lightly healthified oatmeal cookie. I suppose it has to do with most people liking some crisp bits and some gooey bits, which you don't get in a thin crackable cookie like these. Okay, so maybe I answered my own question, but I still think we can make cookie bark a thing.

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Also, I'm calling these "cookies" but they're really a hybrid. Not quite granola, not quite a cookie, they're not terribly sweet, but are sweet enough to pass convincingly for a dessert. They're also chock full of healthy stuff like toasted coconut, dried cherries, and chia seeds.

In one batch I swapped out the toasted pecans for raw pepitas and they were good, but not great. However, if you wanted these for a lunchbox snack, M still liked them a lot, so I think it's a good way to make them school safe.

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Also, there will be a bit of extra liquid that seeps out of the mixture when you spread it on a baking sheet. Try to get as much of it into the mixture as you can. But, I recommend rotating the baking sheet mid-bake and at that point, the extra liquid will have set a bit and is easy to scoop away and discard.

And a last note about baking: We are trying to find the balance here between drying out the bark and burning the bark. Cook it for as long as you can without scorching the edges to get a dryer, more crackable cookie. 

And a last last note about the chia seeds: If you spill any, you WILL think you have an infestation in your home. Over the past week, I've panicked that we had ants, bedbugs, and ticks. A tiny chia seed in a child's hair looks EXACTLY like a deer tick. Just a heads up.

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Chia, cherry, and chocolate cookie bark

2 eggs
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
½ cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted in the oven
1 cup dried coconut flakes, unsweetened
2/3 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup chia seeds

Preheat the oven to 300. On a parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheet, toast the raw pecan pieces until they just begin to smell nutty, about 5 minutes (but keep a close watch). 

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs to combine the whites and yolks. Add the maple syrup and salt and whisk vigorously until the mixture is a bit frothy on top.

Add the dry ingredients and turn a few times to coat everything.

Dump out onto your parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly in a thin layer, trying your best to trap the liquid inside and not let too much seep out. But, see note above if some does seep out. You'll have the chance to scoop it out later.

Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the baking sheet to ensure even browning. Cook for 15 more minutes and check the mixture. If the sides haven't begun to brown, keep cooking for 5 more minutes and check again. Once the edges are a nice golden browned, remove from the oven and let the bark cool completely on its original baking pan. This will take about 2 hours, but I've left this uncovered overnight on the counter and the snap is best the next day.

Yield: 20-30 pieces, depending on how big you make them.

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Vegan carrot and cranberry gingerbread cakes

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I waited until December to officially post anything holiday-related! You're welcome! (Though I couldn't resist Instagramming this last week.) While I love any excuse for an elaborate, calories-be-damned baking project, this month we'll be focusing on nourishing rather than indulging (though I'm sure I'll cave and post SOMETHING rich this season). And here's why:

There are SO MANY BLOGS that have cornered the market on fancy and indulgent holiday treats. And let's face it: Toddlers who are off schedule and also on a sugar crash are not fun to be around. So we're limiting the sweeteners and focusing on the natural variety while also adding in veggies and proteins wherever possible.

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I love this recipe so much, mostly because I love any form of gingerbread and nothing says "Welcome to the holiday season" as much as this warm, spicy combination of molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. We've boosted the nutrition by using a combination of spelt flour and whole wheat flour. The spelt flour has more protein and fiber than regular flour, but mimics white flour in flavor and texture. And whole wheat flour is great because, whole wheat.

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The molasses and spice flavor is also strong, but not overwhelming, so both adults and toddlers can enjoy these bad boys. The maple syrup, carrots, and whole cranberries also add more sweetness and moisture while keeping these vegan. And while the ingredient list isn't exactly short, this recipe is less fussy than some vegan ones because it doesn't require a flax egg or anything exotic. An added bonus to this treat is that it checks a lot of allergy boxes: There are no nuts, dairy, or eggs. And while I haven't tried this with any gluten-free flours, I would assume that any tried-and-true gluten-free mix would work here.

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This recipe baked up perfectly in two 5' x 2' cake pans as well as small bundt pans.

And did I mention that you only need one bowl?

For the topping: I think these are fantastic plain or with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Depending on your needs, I also topped these with a maple cream cheese frosting that was amazing with the cake, but slightly overpowered the gingerbread flavor. I would recommend doing this if you want to bring these to a party and dairy isn't an issue. I haven't personally tried these with the cake, but there are some great coconut whipped toppings on the market and coconut cream whips up into an easy easy dairy-free whipped cream for a vegan option. 

For the decorations here, I made these super easy candied cranberries and used this technique for brushstroke ivy. I've tried making these brushstrokes with chocolate and carob, but I haven't found anything that works as well as regular old candy melts, which unfortunately aren't vegan. Let me know if you find anything else!

Vegan carrot and cranberry gingerbread cakes

½ cup olive oil
½ cup + 2 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup molasses
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups grated carrots
1 ½ cups whole fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup + ¼ cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Add the shredded carrots and cranberries and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Let sit while you grease your baking tins with olive oil.

If using mini bundt pans, fill all the way to the top. These don’t get a huge amount of rise, so the bundts will stay pretty flat. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

If making mini cakes, fill about ¾ of the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Yield: 12 mini bundt cakes or 5’ x 2’ cakes

 

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