Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Hi, my name is Becky and I have an obsession. With vegetables. This can be really upsetting to my social life, as in past cases like “That Time Becky Ordered Broccoli On Pizza At A Company Lunch,” or “That Time I Spilled Green Smoothie In My Car.”

It started when I was in utero, really (my mom notoriously craved unripe peaches during her pregnancies with her four totallynormalcoughcough kids), was nurtured in the garden of tomatoes and okra that I grew as a child, and has absolutely exploded during my pregnancies with my own kids.

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Do you see the shame on this child’s face for having just eaten raw okra straight off the plant? Didn’t even wash it. The nerve…

I’ve often mused about poor little Russ, who never got a lot of the standard ice cream (he got more than his fair share of pickles), cake, and other pregnancy cravings. In fact, I’m fairly certain his entire left leg is made of romaine lettuce and tomatoes, and easily pounds upon pounds of basil. So. Much. Basil. To the point that, with contractions 5 minutes apart, we stopped for pizza with extra basil on the way to the hospital the night of September 14th, 2010. An aside: Pizza as your last meal before having a baby? Not a fabulous idea. Please don’t do that to yourself.

With Henry in 2014, it was much the same. With Odin…no real change. Maybe if I’d had girls, it would’ve been a different craving, but my boys just seem to love kale, brussels sprouts, and all manner of cruciferous delight.

Most people are familiar with the hair part of the Grimms Brothers’ fairytale “Rapunzel,” but that’s missing the point. The point is really that the whole reason the long-locked girl gets that crazy name is because of her mom’s crazy cravings when she is pregnant with her – for a specific herbaceous alpine vegetable known as “rapunzel.” It’s technically campanula rapunculus and certainly doesn’t look so yummy, but ya know…tomato/Solanum lycopersicum, potato/Solanum tuberosum. I figure if the Bros G themselves knew enough about pregnancy cravings to include this detail, then it must be fair to assume that any physiological need or shortfall could result in a craving like that. 

So this is that blog that includes a healthy recipe. Yes, I know…given the last few posts, you may have been led to believe that my name is Betty (not Becky) and all I do is bake cakes. Untruths! Though Betty was allegedly on the short list of names my parents pondered (alongside Courtney), most of what I make has some sort of effort towards wholesomeness and nutrition factored in. I also really don’t like going over budget on grocery shopping. So this makes me obsessive about using all the leftovers I possibly can – which is where this “veggie taco salad” comes from.

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This is what happens when you don’t want to spend money, have about 3/4 c. of leftover ground beef with taco seasonings already in it, just bought a TON of leafy greens at the store over the last 2-3 days, and can audibly hear your own stomach growling.

I don’t have a catchy name for it, nor do I have a real “recipe,” but suffice to say it is a pile of slightly sauteed curly kale and shredded brussels sprouts (seasoned with salt and pepper, paprika, and garlic) used as a landing pad for all things yummy and taco-esque. It was really scraped together in a hurry, believe me, because it was either this or the dreaded hot dogs my son eats for lunch (yes, I’m that mom, nice to meet you). The toppings included:

  • Chopped green onion
  • My favoritestever Rick Bayless Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa (which you can buy at Publix and it kicks the a$$ of every other storebought salsa on the planet)
  • Seasoned taco meat (I used 85/15 that’s on sale for $2.99/lb at The Fresh Market every Tuesday, because I’d rather pay less and skim the fat myself. It was cooked and drained, then seasoned with cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder).
  • Diced avocado. Because I’d rather have avocado than cheese any day of the week.
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sour cream…mmmmm….
  • Lime Juice & Cilantro

I could’ve kept going with the toppings bonanza, but my stomach was actually starting to eat itself and Baby Odin doesn’t like that, so I stopped there. Volume eating (i.e. pounding mass quantities of low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like a mutha-huggin’ boss) is definitely my new hobby.

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So my point in all this, for anyone wanting or needing to up their produce intake is this: Buy the stuff and, if you need to do so, prep it! Then get creative. Yes, you will have some duds. You will have a few meals you’ll sit down to where you’re like “What the eff did I just make?” But thanks to Pinterest and all that, you can usually find a great way to incorporate more veggies into your life and calorie count. Not only will your pants size appreciate this, but you might just feel better and look better, too. Well, unless it’s a pregnancy craving, in which case…good luck.

And when you find yourself standing there in front of a new type of fruit or vegetable, curiously contemplating if there’s even a way to prepare that (this is how I feel about kohlrabi basically every time I see it), just think of me and my mom. It’s 1990. In the Piggly Wiggly on 4th Avenue in Conway, South Carolina. And this is the conversation in which my six year old self begs my overworked and exhausted mother to buy me an ARTICHOKE. Just an artichoke. Just so I can try it. My mom, ever the green-peach-craving phenom, managed to make that impulse-purchase artichoke seem like the coolest, most adventurous food ever. You can probably create something pretty awesome, too.

Until the next kitchen escapade,

I'm kind of failing at this whole blog thing: an update.

 

Let Them Eat…whatever.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of sweets. For someone who bakes fairly regularly – and this is much like my mom and older sister – I can have a bite or two and be done. We’ve mused that perhaps making the stuff is exhausting enough to preclude us from having the energy to eat it, but that’s not really it. Something happened during my first pregnancy and whereas I’d always assumed I’d crave ice cream or something, all I really wanted was tomatoes with basil, salt, and pepper and big piles of crunchy salad greens (especially romaine – the colder, the better). I recall waking up one morning at maybe 13-14 weeks pregnant with Russ, during a week where Jonathan was on a project site in Aiken, and I couldn’t think of a single breakfast food I wanted more than chopped romaine with caesar dressing. Which is obvs weird. Hey, you do what you gotta do.

So, that kind of weird palate has been a recurring theme since then, not just with babies #2 and #3, but in my normal non-knocked up life as well. From pickled okra to massaged kale (Google it, I promise it’ll make more sense) to egg salad, I’m not sure it’ll ever change unless we were to get a surprise girl (and no…that is not in the plan at this time, thanks). But while I don’t eat many sweets, the boys love them and I prefer to make them at home where I can control cost and ingredient quality a little more.

Now, this is not a “diet” recipe, I’m just putting that out there. *ahem* And can I just add that this recipe came together kind of by accident? I had intended on adapting one of my favorite recipes from Cooking Light, Butterscotch Blondies – but alas, adding sweet potatoes and changing the amounts of the ingredients to make a thicker bar all somehow yielded more of a moist cake effect, less of a dense, chewy “blondie” texture. Technically speaking: I effed up this recipe.

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See what I mean? Definitely not a flat, dense blondie…but not quite a cake. What happened here? I’m still not sure.

Actually, it’s really a weird cake, I’m gonna be honest with you – somewhere in between the denseness of a blondie/brownie, not quite fluffy like a cake. This “cake” is the Gary Johnson to the blondie denseness of Hillary or the puffed up, airy quality of a fluffy Donald Trump. It is the Independent Party of Desserts. And I’d need a pastry chef to explain why (which I am not). Oops.

See, part of my problem is that I don’t look at recipes as scripture. I tend to pick and change things and experiment, which is fun until you end up with an accident you can’t explain. Oh well. Thankfully, it still tastes amazing. Which is lucky, cause I phoned. it. in. I present for you The Recipe Formerly Known As Sweet Potato Blondies, which I’ll now just call Accidental Sweet Potato Cake (with Maple Icing-Glaze).

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3 c. all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 sticks of butter (unsalted) – yes, that’s a lot of butter, shut up about it.
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon
5 eggs, beaten
1 c. cooked sweet potato, mashed

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside and heat a small metal skillet or pot over medium heat. Place butter in a pan/pot and allow it to melt. Now, pay close attention to the next part:

If you’re not familiar with “browned butter,” you darn sure outta get familiar because it’s an amazing addition to basically anything from mashed potatoes to baked goods – but there’s a definite art to it!). Butter will foam up once and settle down before foaming up and bubbling again. This process will take 5-6 minutes, at which point you will notice the butter starting to turn an amber-brown hue. Once it reaches a light caramel color, immediately get the butter off the heat, out of the pan, and into a bowl to stop the cooking process. (This process is 5-6 minutes of being VERY hands on, so get your duckies lined up before you start or it’s gonna be a zoo (i.e. my house) and you’re gonna have burned – not browned – butter. Gross.)

Combine browned butter with vanilla, beaten egg and mashed sweet potato, stirring with a whisk. Pour wet mixture over flour mixture; stir until combined. Scrape batter into a 9×13 nonstick / sprayed pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

Maple Icing:
3 tbsp. butter
1/3 c. maple syrup
1.5-2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon


I made this in the microwave because 5-7 minutes of browning butter is strenuous enough. My back hurts. Is it nap time yet??

In a microwave safe bowl or Pyrex, melt the butter for 30-45 seconds. Add maple syrup and return to the microwave for 30-45 seconds or until its bubbling (popping…whatever, the inside of my microwave looks like a post-apocalyptic battle ground). Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and whisk until thick but smooth. You may need to adjust the powdered sugar up to get the right consistency. You want it to thickly coat a spatula and not be too watery, but it’s also not quite a true “cake frosting.” Somewhere in the middle. Like a third party candidate.

Spread that fence-straddling icing on that cake and enjoy! 🙂