So far 2015 has been looking a lot like 2014. Rushed schedules, hectic grocery shopping trips, and lack of sleep. I made a few solid New Year's resolutions and will honestly say I have done a terrible job of sticking to any of them. Here they are in order of priority:
1. Prepare monthly meal plan around seasonal, whole foods and organic meats.
2. Consume meat in a more responsible fashion. Organic/farm raised/grass fed as often as possible and use remains for stocks and soups.
3. Drink 5 glasses of water every single day.
4. Exercise at least 3 times a week.
5. Stop spending money on cheap makeup I don't need/don't use at CVS/Rite-Aid/Walgreens just because I have a coupon.
6. Stop scanning my fob when heading up the the 1st floor of my building from the garage because it's not necessary. Just stop it.
There you have it. 6 pretty inane, not so difficult, some would say easy resolutions. The problem is that when you're on break everything on the other side (post NYE) looks so easy. Like some kind of magic spell will be cast and you will automatically change your schedule and just start living an entirely different life. One in which you grocery shop responsibly, turn every roasted chicken carcass into a stock, prepare meal plans, exercise often, and grab water instead of coffee at 4pm because it's the healthier, better choice. (Also, you're dehydrated and have had a sinus thing for 3 months straight, you idiot. Coffee isn't hydrating. DRINK MORE WATER. DO IT. DO IT. DO IT.)
The reality of the situation is that I spent the holidays binge eating every single thing that came into my sight. After such gluttony the prospect of meal planning and going back to a healthy diet is a hard sell. We spent the holidays in food paradise (South Carolina and New York), eating copious amounts of bacon, shrimp, king crab, casseroles, and pies. The only salad I ate over vacation was a congealed one: fruit encased in a jello, thickly covered in cream cheese and cool whip. It's safe to say that after this break my blood type is now HBG (Hot Butter Grits). The prospect of switching completely to barley and quinoa bowls is less than appealing. I don't care how many instagram filters you put a quinoa-veggie bowl through, it's not THAT amazing. Have you a had a sweet potato casserole smothered in marshmallow?! Ok, case closed.
After much deliberation, I've decided to take a slow and steady approach to resuscitate the healthy -eating -but -budget friendly lifestyle:
Start cutting out sugar, dairy, processed ingredients from our day to day meals in a pragmatic way. Eat more responsibly, as much as possible, on a budget. Eliminate waste as much as possible- use vegetables before they wilt, use roasted chicken carcass for stock, etc. This involves creating meal plans, buying ingredients ahead of time, planning around these factors. I'll share more on my strategy in a future post.
So to begin, I want to share this healthy apple/pear crisp recipe that developed while in a rush to prepare brunch for a few friends on our first day back after the break. I put together a few dishes that were simple, healthy, and ended up costing far less money than a restaurant meal would have. We baked store bought biscuits, because they were $1.99 and purchasing all the ingredients and making them from scratch would be upwards of $10. I also made a simple frittata out of leftover veggies, eggs, and slices of melty mozzarella. It was delicious with a side of bacon, cheaper at the deli counter ($3-$4 for 1/2lb.) of your grocery store than the packaged variety.
Finally, I baked a quick and easy crisp out of several apples and pears that were going mushy. Most standard crisp recipes call for massive amounts of butter, sugar, and eggs (I love you Ina but half a pound of butter?!) -all the ingredients I am trying to avoid. On the other hand, most healthy recipes I've found make the ingredients list too complicated for someone who is trying to cook quickly, cheaply, and efficiently. (Spelt flour, organic rolled grains, unrefined cane sugar, one recipe even called for mango extract! None of these ingredients are accessible to someone cooking on a budget.) So instead, I kept things very simple and healthy, by just enhancing the natural flavors of the fruit. This crisp takes 30 min in the oven and won't require anything that you don't already have in your pantry. It's dairy, egg, and sugar free, and has lasted us almost a week! Try it with breakfast over some plain yogurt or with some whipped cream as a dessert. Enjoy!
- 4 cups peeled, chopped apples + pears (I used 4 apples + 3 pears)
- 1 cup raisins or any dried fruit you may have on hand *
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (any fruit juice will work)
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 bourbon/whiskey (or more...)*
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
* these ingredients are optional but since I almost always have them in my kitchen I like to throw them in for an extra punch of flavor.
Usually for crisps I use a mixture of granola, chopped almonds, and oats which I press into the top of the fruit. Alternatively, I use leftover cereal mixed with granola. It's a great way to use up those bottom of the bag bits! If you don't have granola/cereal available below are ingredients for an easy topping.
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup honey or applesauce to keep it dairy free
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Peel and chop your apples +pears.
- Combine apples, pears and any raisins/dates/dried fruit you like.
- Coat fruit with bourbon, vanilla, lemon, and orange juice.
- Mix your dry ingredients (flour+spices) and toss with the fruit/juice mixture.
- Press granola/cereal/oat topping into the fruit mixture. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.
- Bake crisp for 30 min. on the center rack. It will come out golden and bubbly when finished. Serve over yogurt or with a side of whipped cream!
Crisp with bottom of the bag bits granola/cereal topping.
Crisp with granola/oat topping and side of whipped cream.