Simple Shortcuts: Herb Butter

Simple Shortcuts: Herb Butter - Under the Monkey Bars

Even when life is busy, we still need to eat healthy to keep our bodies and minds nourished. Today I’m sharing the first post in a series of simple shortcuts to save you time when you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table.

Who loves butter? I’m not talking about the kind that comes in a spray bottle or those butter replacement spreads. Unless you have a dairy allergy or follow a vegan diet, eat real butter. And not just any butter. Butter from grass-fed cows that graze on the green pastures of small family farms. You can taste the difference — especially in Kerrygold brand, which is imported straight from Ireland.

Why pastured? Pastured dairy cows yield butterfat that’s loaded with vitamins A & D, iodine, and other essential nutrients. Butter is downright delicious, and it’s a good fat for heart, brain, hormone, and cell function. Everything in moderation though, right?

Today’s simple shortcut uses one of my favorite products: Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter. All of our local grocery stores (Market Basket, Shaws and Whole Foods) carry Kerrygold brand, but only Whole Foods stocks the Garlic & Herb Butter. I keep several sticks in the freezer. Yes, you can freeze butter! 

You can certainly make your own herb butter, but today we are using a high quality product to save time. I love using this butter when I bake fresh fish. Honestly, it’s barely a recipe it’s so easy. Add ingredients based on how much time you have and what you have on hand. My monkeys love garlic so I always add a few shakes of Spicely Organic garlic powder. No need to peel or chop a clove tonight, friends. Keep it simple. You could add extra herbs to compliment the blend in the butter, which includes chives, parsley, salt, dill, pepper, and paprika.

Stay tuned for more Simple Shortcuts. Cómelo todo!

Easy Baked Fish
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. Wild caught fish (flounder, cod, salmon)
  2. 1 teaspoon of quality olive oil
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter per fillet
  4. Sprinkle of sea salt
  5. Squeeze of fresh lemon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Spray a ceramic baking dish with olive oil (I use a reusable stainless steel Misto sprayer).
  3. Cut the fish into fillets.
  4. Add a thin slice of Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter, a sprinkle of salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon to each fillet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the center of the fish is no longer translucent.
  6. Using a pastry brush, spread butter and herbs evenly on the fish.
  7. Serve immediately with your choice of healthy side dishes for an easy dinner.
Notes
  1. Choose sustainable, wild caught fish from a local fish market.
  2. For the 4 of us, I purchase 1.3 pounds of fish and cut it into 4 filets.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes, zucchini, and/or onions if you have extra time. Make sure to increase the cooking time by 5 minutes.
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Tuscan White Beans

Tuscan White Beans Recipe - Under the Monkey Bars

Recipe time! Tuscan White Beans is a solid recipe I’ve been making all summer. You’re going to love it – even if you’re not a big bean person.

Tuscan White Beans is a super easy side dish that compliments fish or chicken beautifully with a green vegetable like broccoli or zucchini. Add a little extra water and a handful of leafy greens like spinach or kale to make it a main dish.

You can keep these simple ingredients on hand and make Tuscan White Beans anytime. The dish comes together really fast. Cook it whenever you have time because it doesn’t need to be served hot. I throw it together while I’m baking muffins or cooking dinner. Tuscan White Beans will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days but these beans never last in our house more than a day or two!

The recipe calls for cannellini beans, which are white Italian kidney beans that you can buy in both dry and canned forms. It’s healthiest to soak dry beans and cook them yourself, but there’s not always time. Sometimes you need homemade shortcuts and Tuscan White Beans is just the dish. This recipe gives you the benefits of cannellini beans without the extra steps.

Packed with protein and fiber, Tuscan White Beans are low in fat and contain negligible sugar (just a smidgen from the tomato). The dish is vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, nut free, soy free, and naturally gluten free.

Fresh rosemary adds so much flavor to this dish. I used a ton of rosemary sprigs from our container garden this summer. I’m planning to move the rosemary plant inside this winter. Fingers crossed my black thumb can swing it.

Did you know rosemary has anti-cancer properties? And it’s a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B6. Rosemary also boosts your immune system — for real. It’s that time of year, and frankly, I’ll do anything to boost our immune systems. Bring on the rosemary!

Cooking an easy, family friendly dish like Tuscan White Beans will help you minimize eating processed foods while saving money. Beans are cheap! I buy Eden Organic beans at Market Basket: 2 cans for $5. Make sure the brand you buy comes in a BPA-free can without added salt.

Try making Tuscan White Beans this Fall for your family. My monkeys absolutely love the mild flavor and texture of Tuscan White Beans. It’s perfect to pack in lunch boxes! I brought this dish to my friend’s Champagne and Kleenex party last week and it got rave reviews — even among the toddler set.

Cómelo todo!

Tuscan White Beans
Serves 4
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Total Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 garlic cloves, smashed and lightly chopped
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1 plum tomato, chopped
  4. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  5. 2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  6. 1/2 cup filtered water
  7. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  8. Sea salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized pot, cook garlic cloves in olive oil over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
  2. Add chopped tomato and rosemary. Cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add cannellini beans and cook for 5 minutes, partially smashing beans with a wooden spoon.
  4. Remove the rosemary.
  5. Stir in the water and parsley. Season with salt.
  6. Optional: add a drizzle of olive oil when serving.
Adapted from Food Network Kitchen
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Kale Summer Salad

Kale Summer Salad - Under the Monkey Bars

We love this Kale Summer Salad recipe on a hot day! If you pre-make the rice and chicken, you can throw it together without turning on the oven. Pack it up for lunch or dinner at the beach or bring it to a cookout. 

The combination of chicken, raw kale, brown rice, and sweet fruit in this recipe is nothing short of perfection. With this healthy Kale Summer Salad, you can check off almost all of the food groups with one simple, satisfying dish. 

The ingredients are really flexible and naturally gluten free. For vegans and vegetarians, try using tofu instead of chicken. The tofu will soak up the dressing and be really delicious. If you can’t have nuts, try pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

The original recipe calls for sweet red cherries, which have a really short season (like now!). We love sliced red grapes or chunks of crisp apples sometimes even more than the cherries. Pitting and cutting cherries are a lot of work!

Use left over roasted chicken or grill up some extra chicken a day or two in advance to save time. We love short grain brown rice with this salad, which I make in our rice cooker. It adds a hearty texture and flavor to the salad but can certainly be left out if you avoid rice or follow the paleo diet.

You’re going to love the garlic dressing in this recipe! I make it in my 15 year old Cuisinart food processor — no fancy high speed blender necessary. I typically double the dressing recipe and use it for salads or as a marinade for fish later in the week. Why not, right?

Look for lacinato kale at the farmers market, Whole Foods, or a natural market like the Natural Grocer. Curly kale or boxed baby kale will work in a pinch but it’s not as good as the thin ribbons of the flat leaf kale in this recipe.

Serve your Kale Summer Salad at room temperature. It keeps well in the fridge for up to three days, but it never lasts that long at our house. I hope you love it as much as we do. Cómelo todo!

Kale Summer Salad
Serves 4
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  2. 1 garlic clove
  3. ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  4. Juice of 1 lemon
  5. 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  6. 1 cup cooked brown rice
  7. 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts torn into bite-sized pieces
  8. Fresh-ground black pepper
  9. 1 8 ounce can artichoke hearts: quartered, rinsed, and drained
  10. 2 cups chiffonaded lacinato kale (stems removed, leaves chopped into thin horizontal ribbons)
  11. ½ cup slivered or crushed almonds
  12. 2 cups cherries (pitted and halved), grapes or apples
Instructions
  1. Make the garlic dressing: In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and sugar until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, mix together the rice, chicken, and kale. Toss with dressing until well coated. Gently fold in the artichoke hearts, almonds, and cherries. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Keep chilled until serving.
Notes
  1. Buy organic ingredients whenever possible.
Adapted from Saveur
Adapted from Saveur
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

Cashew Mac + Cheese

Cashew Mac and Cheese - Under the Monkey Bars

This recipe is magical. It’s mac and cheese, without any cheese. I’m serious — no cheese! You have to try it to believe it. When I stopped eating dairy, I craved cheese like you wouldn’t believe. It’s unbelievable how cheesy this Cashew Mac + Cheese tastes! I swear it tastes even better than the real thing, and it’s super good for you!

Why would you want to make mac and cheese without actual cheese?
1. Dairy should be eaten in condiment servings, and most of us consume far more cheese than we should.
2. The “cheese” sauce is made of veggies. We could all use more veggies in our diet, am I right?
3. The cashews pack in extra protein, fiber, and healthy fats to fill you up and provide energy.
4. When you have a cold or seasonal allergies, avoiding dairy is really smart. So, therefore, this recipe for Cashew Mac + Cheese is brilliant!

Bean requested Cashew Mac + Cheese for her 10th birthday dinner two weeks ago. The monkeys love this dish so much that they actually jump up and down when I make it. High fives all around. After sharing the recipe with many friends, every single person has raved about it — from toddlers to teenagers. It’s especially great for kids on a veggie strike. Another way to get veggies into little monkeys is a winner for sure!

I double the “cheese” sauce recipe every time I make Cashew Mac + Cheese because it freezes really well. Why not make extra for another day? Doubling the recipe makes about 35 ounces of “cheese” sauce. The whole meal takes about 45 minutes from start to finish including sautéing some extra veggies to mix in (peas, zucchini, broccoli), and sometimes cooking up meat like bacon or sausage too (sorry vegan friends!).

Cashew Mac + Cheese is one of those dishes you can tailor to suit your dietary needs or the needs of your friends with food allergies! We’ve never been into breadcrumb toppings for mac and cheese, but if you like breadcrumbs, head over to the original recipe for that version.

Give it a try. I can practically promise you’ll love it. Cómelo todo!

Cashew Mac + Cheese
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounces pasta
  2. 1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
  3. 1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
  5. 1 cup water
  6. 1/4 cup raw cashews
  7. 2 teaspoons sea salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon garlic
  9. 1/3 cup butter (or non-hydrogenated margarine if you’re vegan)
  10. 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  11. 1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  12. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  13. less than 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (see notes)
Instructions
  1. Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the box. Set aside.
  2. After chopping your potatoes, carrots, and onion, put the veggies and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until veggies are really soft.
  3. In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, butter, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, cayenne, softened veggies, and cooking water until perfectly smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Or, add the sauce to individual bowls and store the left overs in a glass container or mason jar.
  5. You do not need a high speed blender for this recipe.
Notes
  1. Choose organic ingredients when possible.
  2. I usually throw in extra veggies and it always tastes great.
  3. Leftover cheese sauce can be frozen (in glass ideally). Add a teaspoon of extra butter and and a tablespoon of water to reheat. Warm on low heat and stir frequently.
  4. Use left over cheese sauce to dip veggies or stir it into plain risotto with some veggies.
  5. If you're gluten free, we love Jovial or Andean Dream GF pasta. Also make sure your mustard is GF; we like Annie’s.
  6. When cooking for little ones, be mindful of the cayenne. I started with just two tiny shakes and worked my way up to 1/8 teaspoon for a double batch!
Adapted from VegNews
Adapted from VegNews
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Mediterranean Ratatouille

Mediterranean Ratatouille - Under the Monkey Bars

Ratatouille is a French dish loaded with succulent Mediterranean vegetables. Think juicy tomatoes fresh off the garden vine, giant zucchini ready to split, and of course shiny purple eggplant.

This is an easy weeknight meal that makes a giant pot full of yum. I can practically promise you leftovers. Serve Mediterranean Ratatouille in a bowl on its own, with crusty bread, over risotto or even lentils. Maybe add a side of grilled chicken or make it a Meatless Monday! Ratatouille is super heart healthy, high in fiber, and low on the glycemic index. How could it not be with all of those veggies!

Speaking of veggies, do you have a CSA? We have been getting lots of eggplant with our weekly Boston Organics deliveries and I’m so glad I remembered this recipe. Save it for when you have more eggplant and zucchini than you know what to do with!

Ratatouille is a fantastic recipe for anyone with food allergies or sensitivities because it’s naturally gluten free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, soy free, and nut free. That’s a long list!! Keep this Ratatouille recipe in mind for your summer cook outs too. Or pair it with the Disney movie movie and maybe the monkeys will be more apt to eat it!

Bean will devour two bowls of Ratatouille whereas Sweet Pea asks for a small bowl without eggplant. I make a few dishes with eggplant and occasionally she will eat one or two pieces but she’s not a huge fan of the texture. I’ve always been flexible with the foods that the monkeys don’t like. However, I continue to serve them and never leave them out of a meal. I firmly believe that you have to try a food at least 10 times before you can say you don’t like it. And that’s not just for kids! Grown-ups too. Our palates change over time and you never know – you might surprise yourself!

Cómelo todo!

Mediterranean Ratatouille
Serves 6
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup olive oil
  2. 2 large onions, finely chopped
  3. 4 cloves garlic
  4. 1 large eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
  5. 3-4 medium peppers, cut into 1" chunks
  6. 4-6 small zucchini, cut into 1/4' slices
  7. 5-6 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon coconut or date sugar
  10. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
Instructions
  1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
  2. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Add the eggplant and peppers and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the zucchini, tomatoes (with juice), salt, sugar, and oregano.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot or cold.
Notes
  1. - Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
  2. - Cooks beautifully in my dutch oven.
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/
Note: If you’re in the Boston area, definitely look into Boston Organics. We’ve been a customer since last year and have been impressed with the convenience and quality. I absolutely love choosing what we don’t want to receive for produce week to week; the “No List” is the best. Use this code for 10% off your first delivery: 8319bob6jc.