Eat Like Shalane Month: Week 4

My month of making recipes from Shalane Flanagan’s cookbook Run Fast. Eat Slow. is nearing the end. This week, I attempted to really diversify and tried everything from desserts to main dishes to salads and smoothies. In addition to the new recipes featured this week, I made several recipes from prior weeks as well, including the Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies, Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos, the Lemon-Miso Salad Dressing, and a hybrid kale salad.

This week’s recipes were not all loved, even by me. But the shared experience of trying something new, and watching each family member’s facial expression, has been incredibly fun. Read on for seven more recipe reviews!


Double Chocolate Teff Cookies

These cookies have been on my to-try list since Week 1. Teff was a little hard for me to find, but I finally found some at my local farm stand and was happy that it was cheap compared to almond meal. “What the hell is teff?” you might be wondering as I did. It’s an ancient grain from Ethiopia, haled as another super-food that will help you lose weight and might even curb your PMS symptoms! Hmmm. Whatever, Dr. Oz.

Anyway, while neither of the first two characteristics is a necessity for me, this vegan, gluten-free recipe whisked together easily, and included teff, almond meal, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and coconut oil. The one surprise was that Shalane recommends refrigerating the dough overnight for a softer cookie. Bummer, because we were all ready for dessert.

When I made the cookies the next afternoon, the dough was quite stiff from being refrigerated so I hand-rolled each cookie so they didn’t crumble apart. Next time, I’ll let the dough warm up to room temperature before baking. Long story long, these are delicious cookies with a texture similar to brownies. Everyone in the family gave them a double thumbs-up. Amazing. Make these!

Cost: C+ (maple syrup and coconut oil), Ease of Recipe: A,  Taste: A+Family-Friendly: A+, Prep-time: 10 minutes, refrigerate overnight, bake for 12 minutes 

Nostrana’s Pasta Salad

This is a tough one. Although an easy, relatively quick and unique side dish to prepare for dinner or lunch, the family-friendly aspect was all over the charts in my house. You start by roasting fennel, egg plant, and red bell peppers in the oven then tossing the veggie mix with pasta, Parmesan, chopped olives, parsley, and a little lemon juice. That’s it. And then you have a lovely, colorful, delicious side.

I loved the flavor, the sharp acidic kick of the olives balanced by the roasty charred flavor of the eggplant and fennel. I smoked a pork loin and the flavors complimented each other perfectly.

My husband gave it a B-minus for flavor, but said he liked it better than most pasta salads. You know, the ones that are mostly mayo, cheddar cubes, macaroni and frozen green peas. My four-year-old daughter took one no-thank-you bite, the rule in our house when faced with a new food or recipe. My 10-year-old son dutifully ate his but gave it a D for flavor.

This is a recipe I probably won’t make for my family again, but I see it as one I’d make for a potluck for adults, like a book club night or work event. Also of note, the recipe is huge. I cut it in half and there are still a ton of leftovers.

Cost: A, Ease of Recipe: A,  Taste: BFamily-Friendly: D, Prep-time: 1 hour 

Millet Pizza Pies

These small, artisanal-looking personal pizza crusts are the featured recipe gracing the front of Run Fast. Eat Slow., as such I had to give them a try. The crust is another gluten-free recipe, this time featuring millet, cannellini beans, eggs, miso, and some spices. I started by cooking the millet, which takes about 30 minutes, until it was the consistency of mashed potatoes. You blend that with the other ingredients until you get a very wet dough, then measure that out with a measuring cup onto parchment paper.

It took 37 minutes to cook the millet, make the dough, measure it out, and get it in the oven. While the millet cooked and then while the crusts baked, I prepped the topping ingredients so my family could personalize their own pizza.

When I went to flip the crusts after 15 minutes, they crumbled despite my most careful attempts using two spatulas, one underneath and one on top to hold it together while I flipped. Only one of the six didn’t break at all. The first one broke into three pieces while the rest were mostly broken in half. I pushed the pieces together in the hopes that they’d bake back together and maybe the sauce and cheese toppings would be the glue.

We each topped our pizzas and popped them back in the oven for 10 minutes and dinner was finally ready. Preparation took a grand total of 67 minutes from start to finish.

I carefully cut the pizzas into halves or fourths thinking that maybe we’d be able to pick up the smaller pieces to eat like real pizza, but no dice. These were eat-with-a-fork pizzas. The crust tasted ok. It had a consistency similar to dense cornbread and was very filling. The left-overs the next day made a good lunch. I ate them cold. The crumbliness never really improved; I could pick up a piece but it fell apart when I took a bite.

Final verdict? I probably won’t do these again, they weren’t good enough for me to crave the flavor and I consider pizza a convenience food. Whether I get cheap pizza delivered or spend money on delicious, fancy pizza, part of its appeal is it’s easy to get and easy to eat. Normally I enjoy pizza in all its iterations, but this recipe? Not so much.

Cost: B- (lots of ingredients, depends on what toppings you choose), Ease of Recipe: B,  Taste: C+Family-Friendly: C+ (hard for little hands to eat what is normally a very easy-to-eat meal) Prep-time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Parmesan & Herb-Crusted Cod

One of my family’s favorite dinners is my own hand breaded, fried cod recipe. Over the years I’ve perfected the flavors and crispiness we love. This recipe sparked my curiosity for a couple of reasons: the fish is breaded with … *drum roll* … almond meal! rather than breadcrumbs and these are baked rather than fried. I’ve tried oven-baked homemade chicken tenders and fish sticks before but have always been a little disappointed because the crispiness is never as good as fried.

Anyhow, this recipe is fairly simple, first dredging the fish fillets in cornmeal, then in egg, and finally in a mixture of almond meal, Parmesan cheese, and some spices.

You throw them on a rack over a cookie sheet in the oven for about 12 minutes and you’re ready to eat in about 30 minutes total. This recipe did not disappoint; the breading was flavorful and the cornmeal helped add a bit of the crispness-factor that usually lacks in oven-baked breading. Baking was great because it’s faster than frying up fillets and is much neater to clean up as well. I’ll definitely make these again, they are perfect for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner.

Cost: B, Ease of Recipe: A,  Taste: AFamily-Friendly: B+, Prep-time: 30 minutes

Sage Brown Butter Penne with Butternut Squash

I think this makes a better side rather than a main dish.

When I made the Mashed Yams with Sage Brown Butter a few weeks ago, I loved the taste of this fast and easy sauce but thought it didn’t go well with soggy yams. This recipe uses the same sauce but on roasted butternut squash, a favorite in my house, and pasta.

You start by peeling and cutting up a butternut into one-inch cubes, but it is also easy to find already cubed butternut squash at the grocery store. I tossed that with olive oil, salt and pepper and put it into the oven for 40 minutes.

While the squash cooked, I made the brown butter sauce and boiled the pasta. When the squash was done, I mixed it with the pasta and butter sauce in a skillet and tossed it until everything was equally coated, then dumped it into a bowl and mixed in Parmesan cheese and some RFES Turmeric Pepitas. The recipe calls for the death of me, walnuts, so I subbed the pepitas that I had leftover from a salad I made yesterday. The added flavor and crunch from them was fantastic.

This time the sauce and the texture of the dish were a perfect match; my husband actually said this might be his favorite dish yet. Although this recipe is in the “Main Dish” chapter, I smoked chicken breasts and served a salad on the side as well. This is a very carby, intensely flavorful dish and I don’t think I’d be able to eat a large serving of it. The chicken and the freshness of the salad lightened what is a rather heavy, but delicious entree. Definitely looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!

Cost: A, Ease of Recipe: B (easier if you buy pre-cubed squash),  Taste: AFamily-Friendly: B+, Prep-time: 1 hour 

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Banana Pops

The kids had been begging for me to try these, so I finally made them to eat on Family Game Night. This sounds much more romantic than it turned out with my daughter melting down in a puddle of tears and chocolate saliva. Anyway, I peeled the bananas, cut them in half and inserted a chopstick into each one at lunch time, and then prepared the chocolate coating after dinner.

You might think that you’d just use melted chocolate chips or something. But no. Shalane’s recipes always add extra nutrition via multiple ingredients that also drive up the price, and this recipe may have jumped the shark by attempting to make a fruit dessert overly good for you.

The coating includes 1/4 cup of coconut oil, 1/3 cup of maple syrup — I’ll need to start donating plasma to afford the maple syrup budget required from this cookbook —  and six tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. I dipped the bananas and put them back in the freezer for five minutes to set the chocolate, and they were ready.

The kids, and we grownups too, were so excited, but the excitement quickly turned to let-down. The dark chocolate was very rich; my son scraped it all off. Cha-ching, cha-ching! Money down the drain. My daughter and husband only ate about half each of theirs. It’s just money, right? *sobs*

Frozen bananas have the texture of ice cream and are delicious, however if I make these again I will use melted chocolate chips and only dip them halfway. This is one of those times where I say, “Look, it’s dessert that’s mostly cheap banana, so let’s accept that it’s dessert and just use cheap Nestle morsels and screw adding extra stuff to try and make it more nutritious.”

Cost: D+, Ease of Recipe: A,  Taste: CFamily-Friendly: C, Prep-time: 15 minutes (plus at least four hours to freeze the bananas before dipping them.)

Can’t Beet Me Smoothie

This recipe scared me a bit. l love smoothies and I clearly love vegetables, including beets, but I am not a fan of vegetables in smoothies. Or seeds or avocado. Not even nut butters to be honest. My mainstay smoothie includes frozen strawberries, a banana, blueberries, and plain Greek yogurt with a little apple juice if it’s too thick.

This smoothie has an ingredient list that required me to snap a picture before I headed to the store: a beet, banana and blueberries, fresh ginger, almond butter — although, I decided to just use the peanut butter I had on hand because I’m now broke — coconut water, and “unsweetened milk of your choice.” I used the bovine variety because in my household any of the others would go to waste after this smoothie.

I feel like I’m griping, but smoothies should be fast so you can make and then drink them on the go. This recipe requires cooking the beet the night before for one hour at 350º and freezing the banana over-night. I had an early morning longish group run and planned to have this after I got back.

The recipe made enough for all four members of my family to try, so we all went for it. My son took a sip and opted out. My husband and I drank it because it was good for us and $$, though not terribly enjoyable. The gingery beet-flavored burps remind you of this smoothie for hours afterward. My daughter? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

If you’d like to try this concoction yourself, I’d suggest buying pre-cooked beets to cut down on prep time. Additionally the banana doesn’t really need to be frozen. The cup of frozen blueberries is plenty cold enough to give your smoothie the right texture.

Cost: C, Ease of Recipe: A-,  Taste: C-Family-Friendly: C-, Prep-time: 1 hour (cooking your beet), 5 minutes to make the smoothie

***

Next week is my final installation of my month of eating like Shalane. I’ll try a few more recipes, then give you the low-down on the ones that I’ll definitely continue making and the ones that definitely didn’t make the cut. I’ll also provide tips for making some of the recipes for less money and in less time. As always, if there is a recipe you’d like me to try, leave it in the comments!

Click here to benefit Salty Running with your purchase of Run Fast. Eat Slow.

I'm an elementary P.E. teacher with a long-term, ongoing marathon addiction.The next big goal? Keeping up my BQ streak while aiming for a 3:10! I write about the not-so-glamorous side of running and fitting in serious training with a family while staying sane(ish).

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31 comments

  1. I’ll give the book credit — at least if you spend the cash on some almond meal, there are ample ways to use it in the book!

    1. That’s for sure- it’s in so many recipes! And I think it’s delicious, and I found it for about $4/pound at one store so can avoid the $13/pound they charge everywhere else!

  2. I do appreciate the cookbook’s commitment to the almond meal, maple syrup, and coconut oil. Now that I have some almond meal on hand, there are a lot of recipes I can make now without another trip to the grocery store. I saw that my husband bought some cubed butternut squash, so I’ll have to make the brown butter squash pasta recipe!

    1. This cookbook could also be titled “101 Ways to Cook With Coconut Oil, Maple Syrup, and Almond Meal” with the last chapter being how to afford that much coconut oil, maple syrup, and almond meal! lol

  3. Hahaha. Those expressions on your daughter’s face are priceless. FWIW, that was me this morning when I tasted my smoothie (containing avocado, greens, and some fruit). Not enough fruit. Not enough honey. I finally had to plug my nose and chug it. Eww. I’m trying to embrace the veggies in smoothies, but avocado just needs a lot of fruit to cover it up.

      1. If you get the ripeness of the avocado right, it’s not so bad. It ALMOST can sub for a banana, but I’m not loving it. This week’s set was a fail (I prep a week’s worth of ingredients for morning smoothies on Sunday; each day is in a separate bag). The avocados were “off”, and the frozen fruit/veg mix I tried had too much veg. Blech. I’ve added strawberries and honey all week to adjust.

        I will also say that I have in the past kept a bag of frozen bananas in our freezer, ready to go. Our closest grocery will mark the bananas down once they get even remotely brown. I bring those home, peel, and freeze.

  4. Love the pics- and am looking forward to the “best of” post. The image of your daughter’s face are reminiscent of a lot of “no thank you” bites in our house. So glad you have the family-friendly score card!

  5. I’ve enjoyed your series on this (and the pictures are awesome). Those bananas look delish. Disappointing that they were meh. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! I thought the bananas were good, but too rich. If I made them with the same chocolate dip next time, I’d ether drizzle it on or only dip them half-way, then save the leftover chocolate mixture in the freezer for next time. And I’ll use milk-chocolate chips for the kids’ because they didn’t like the dark richness.

  6. Really really enjoying this series…thanks! I made the superhero muffins based on your recommendation and they are scrum. Making the teff cookies too. At some point, I must make something that isn’t dessert that Shalane eats!

    1. Right? Our favorites have been the baked goods and breakfast things in general, I’d say. If you’re going to leave the dessert realm, try the kale salad with farro, lemon miso dressing, and throw some of the turmeric pepitas on top. DELISH! Then have a teff cookie after, because HEALTH = maple syrup and chocolate.

  7. The squash pasta was the first recipe I made from the book and I loved it! Also love the teff cookies. I think there is a teff pancake recipe in the book too? Sara Hall makes a teff & Muscle Milk pancake, which sounds kinda nasty to me, but I’ve heard teff is so good for you!

    1. There is a teff recipe in RF/ES, but my husband’s pancakes are my favorite in the world so I haven’t tried them. Yes, teff is very good for you, but I’m a skeptic about all the too-good-to-be-true-sounding claims with many exclamation points!!!! lol

  8. I love these recipe recaps, and your writing is hilarious, but I have to be honest – I thought that cookbook was CRAP. I got it for Christmas, and it’s just so incredibly basic. I cannot understand why someone would need a recipe for things like oatmeal, egg burritos, and minestrone. There are a few subs for unusual grains, but the rest is blah. I sold it on half.com.

    1. I’m glad to hear your take- I agree that several of the recipes are incredibly basic (the Brussels sprouts, oatmeal, burritos, the soba noodle salad, among others). Talking with a friend of mine who absolutely doesn’t cook, though, she is totally overwhelmed by the cookbook and its ingredients, etc.

  9. I love the teff cookies and I didn’t bother to refrigerate the dough overnight; I just let it sit on the counter for an hour or so while I did other things and then went ahead and baked. Turned out fine. And like someone commented above, I just keep a bag of frozen bananas on the go in the freezer (especially if I can snag the 1/2 price bananas that they put out in the grocery store when they start to go brown). Coming from Quebec, I suspect our maple syrup prices are lower than in the rest of N America…

    1. Oh Canada!!! Send me some cheap Grade B maple syrup, please! And some Xanax while you’re at it, because that’s cheaper up north too, right?! 😉 I just made the teff cookies again and did the same as you & they turned out fine. One thing I did like better about the over-night refrigeration is that the chips stayed more in tact and got all gooey than when I just let the dough sit on the counter for an hour.

  10. I made the Nostrana’s pasta salad for a BBQ this weekend, and it was huge – took half to the party and kept half for myself for lunches this week. I thought it was really good, the olives and the fresh parsley were key, and I’m looking forward to more summer salads!