Sunday, January 9, 2011

the final best pickle meal plan...

This will be the last post for The Best Pickle in its current form. I've found lately, as you may have noticed by my increasingly sporadic posts, that it's becoming more and more difficult to juggle a full-time job, planning and preparing nightly meals, and writing about my meal plans. I've realized that I have to give something up--my job pays the bills and if I gave up my meal planning and cooking, I wouldn't have anything to blog about, so unfortunately, this blog is coming to a close. I've loved this opportunity to document my meal plans and (mostly) healthy and delicious dinners. I have also loved getting to know my readers and hearing about your healthy recipes and meal planning tips. I hope to one day begin blogging again, although in a modified format--I've been posting about 6 days a week in this current format and that has proven to be too much, so if I bring back The Best Pickle, it will be some other incarnation. Any suggestions on what you would like to read and learn about?

Thank you all for reading and following my blog. Thanks also to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Bon Appétit Blogs, and the Nutrition Blog Network for their support and recognition. Here's my final meal plan!

Meal 1: beet & fennel soup with kefir, roast chicken & potatoes
Meal 2: chicken tacos with pinto beans
Meal 3: tomato, fennel, & crab soup; salad with miso-ginger dressing
Meal 4: pasta with butternut squash, chickpeas, & kasseri; salad
Meal 5: caribbean succotash with shrimp and brown rice

Sunday, January 2, 2011

new year's day - creole hoppin' john with collard greens and prosciutto

I grew up in Alabama, where it's customary to eat black-eyed peas, collard greens, and pork on New Year's Day to bring good luck and wealth in the new year. Since it's also a healthy and delicious meal, I decided to bring the tradition to Portland this year. I made a recipe for creole hoppin' john from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook, which was printed in The Oregonian this week. I found fresh black-eyed peas in the produce department of the supermarket, so I used those instead of the dried peas called for in the recipe. I made sautéed collard greens with prosciutto loosely based on this pasta recipe from The New York Times. Overall, it was a delicious meal, and I hope it brings good health and wealth to you and yours this year. Happy new year!

Creole Hoppin' John

1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pint jar or 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 cups fresh black-eyed peas, rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper

Add the rice to a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the water has evaporated and the rice starts smelling nutty. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and continue cooking until the rice starts browning, about 2 minutes.

To the rice, add the shallots, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne, thyme, oregano, and remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan over medium heat, combine the chicken or vegetable broth, tomatoes, and salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice mixture and the black-eyed peas to the broth and stir well. Bring back to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 40 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated and the rice is tender.

Remove from the heat and steam with the cover on for at least 10 minutes. Season to taste with pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Sautéed Collard Greens and Prosciutto

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and discarded, leaves rinsed and sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook until just beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the collard greens and cook, stirring occassionally, about seven minutes or until the greens are wilted and tender. Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 2 servings.

thursday - eggplant and chickpea baked pasta, salad

This hearty vegetarian baked pasta (from this recipe at was even better than Wednesday night's eggplant and chickpea stew! It came together quickly, and I absolutely love getting two meals out of one dish. I used queso fresco instead of feta simply because I prefer it, and I used parsley instead of mint or basil because it's still hanging on in my garden (although probably not after the bitter cold spell we're currently having). Courtney went back for thirds, which is a good sign. I also served a salad of butter lettuce, sliced pears, blue cheese, and pepitas, tossed with a cider vinaigrette.

wednesday - eggplant & chickpea stew, quinoa, sautéed kale

This month's EatingWell magazine has an article about slow cooker meals with follow-up recipes for a second night's dinner, so you get two meals out of one main recipe. Yay! I tried out their eggplant and chickpea stew this week. Eggplant is not my favorite vegetable, but it cooks down so much that I barely noticed it, and I loved the hearty chickpeas. I served the stew over quinoa (but any cooked whole grain would do) and had sautéed kale on the side. I followed the stew recipe pretty closely, but I did all of the prep the night before--I followed the instructions through step 4 with the exception of stirring in the soaked chickpeas. I transferred the vegetable mixture to the refrigerator, and then I soaked the dried chickpeas overnight. In the morning, I drained the chickpeas, stirred them into the vegetable mixture, and transferred the whole thing to the slow cooker. Easy, provided you have a bit of free time the night before.

tuesday - winter salad with roasted squash, seared scallops, corn chowder

Tuesday night I made a repeat of this delicious salad with roasted butternut squash and pomegranate vinaigrette, based on a recipe from I sprinkled crumbled blue cheese on top, and served seared scallops on the side. Delicious. To speed things up, I used bagged butter lettuce and pre-peeled and cubed butternut squash.

I also made corn chowder, which I've posted about before. It's orginally based on this recipe from Again, I made a few changes to speed things along, such as using canned green chiles and frozen corn. It's a tasty, easy soup that's ready in a flash.

Corn Chowder

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
1 15-ounce bag frozen corn kernels
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (do not let it brown), 8 to 10 minutes. Add the green chiles, and stir for 1 minute. Add the corn, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (Alternatively, use a handheld immersion blender in the pot.) If needed, thin with a little water to desired consistency.

Makes 6 servings.

monday - pinto bean-wheat berry soup and quesadillas

We returned home Monday evening and I was faced with an empty fridge and no motivation to go to the grocery store or pick up take-out. So, I was very pleased when I was able to piece together this soup out of things I found in the freezer (cooked wheat berries and pinto beans), pantry (canned tomatoes, chicken stock, onion, and garlic), and refrigerator (celery and carrots). The soup is loosely based on this recipe from, which I've made before, but modified quite a bit based on what I had on hand. I also made quesadillas with two remaining flour tortillas and two diced low-fat cheddar cheese sticks.

Pinto Bean-Wheat Berry Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (or 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained)
2 pints diced tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes), drained
3 cups cooked wheat berries or pearl barley
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add chicken stock, water, bay leaf, beans, tomatoes, wheat berries, and salt; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender and chili has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Season with vinegar, sugar, and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

meal plan

We're finally back in Portland after a week in sunny Arizona, and I must say, it's nice to return to this gray, rainy sky. A short meal plan this week, though.

What did you have for Christmas dinner? On Christmas eve, my husband and I had Domino's Pizza. Yup. I could go into the myriad reasons why, but suffice it to say, I'm glad to be back to normal. It was, however, a great holiday and so nice to see family and friends.

Meal 1: wheat berry-pinto bean soup, quesadillas
Meal 2: winter salad with seared scallops & roasted squash, corn chowder
Meal 3: eggplant & chickpea stew, quinoa, sautéed kale
Meal 4: eggplant & chickpea baked pasta