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Scrumptious Sweet Potato Burger with Tahini Herb Sauce

August 18, 2015
Check out this beauty!

I do a lot of research looking into various food blogs to get recipe ideas when I hit a slump. This week, I had the good fortune of stumbling upon an amazing website called Sweet Potato Soul. We are in the midst of a gluten-free experiment out here in Virginia. Alonzo has been feeling bit frustrated by the difficulty of finding options out at restaurants, so I have been trying to ease the transition by cooking A LOT at home. It helps to have super delicious options to feed him and decrease his stress.

Enter Sweet Potato Soul’s gluten-free veggie burger with green tahini sauce! I knew this would be a hit, since Alonzo is a self-proclaimed lover of sweet potatoes, and has often said tahini makes everything better. :) These burgers are different from the last I tried in that they are baked instead of fried, and I found them to hold form better. The star of the show for me is the tahini sauce. I could eat that for days (and I did).

Check out this beauty!

Check out this beauty!

I’ve entered the recipe below, with my notes on changes I will probably make next time (and based on the deliciousness and ease of this recipe, you can bet there will be a next time!). You will need a large food processor for these veggie burgers, and you can find the original recipe here.

This recipe makes a lot of burgers, but they freeze amazingly well in either a ziploc or a tubberware container. You can pop one out of the freezer as a quick and easy accompaniment to a meal. I especially like to use leftover burgers to add a heartiness to salads, and recently crumbled one over a plate of nachos (I unfortunately did not take a picture).

Sweet Potato Burger with Tahini Herb Sauce
Print Recipe
Not just another sweet potato burger. Well worth the prep time required, I promise.
Servings Prep Time
12-14 burgers 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
40 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
12-14 burgers 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
40 minutes 1 hour
Sweet Potato Burger with Tahini Herb Sauce
Print Recipe
Not just another sweet potato burger. Well worth the prep time required, I promise.
Servings Prep Time
12-14 burgers 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
40 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
12-14 burgers 1 hour
Cook Time Passive Time
40 minutes 1 hour
Ingredients
Veggie Burger
Tahini Sauce
Servings: burgers
Instructions
Veggie Burger
  1. In food processor, pulse red bell pepper and red onion. Transfer to large mixing bowl (there will be liquid present, which will help to hold the burgers together!). Repeat with the chickpeas and cilantro/parsley, processing until small and chunky, but not completely smooth. Add to the mixing bowl. Repeat with the garlic, almonds, and spices, processing until almonds are crumbs. Add to mixing bowl. Place the flesh of the baked sweet potato (about 1 1/2 cups) in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add to mixing bowl!
  2. Add oats on top and mix. I used my hands for this, as it seemed to be the easiest method. Once mixed together, place in the fridge for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375℉ and line baking sheets with parchment paper (you will probably need two baking sheets). Form the mixture into flat patties using about 3/4 cup of the mixture, and place about an inch apart on baking sheets. Cook in preheated oven for around 40 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan or serving (this should prevent them from falling apart).
Tahini sauce and toppings
  1. SO GOOD. Add all ingredients up to the olive oil back into the food processor (or blender). Once smooth, slowly add in olive oil. Salt to taste. Prepare the rest of the toppings, following your heart's desire (and the contents of your kitchen). I chose to serve this on a bed of arugula with sliced tomatoes, avocado, and sauteed Swiss chard and onions.
  2. Admire the finished product and enjoy.
Recipe Notes

Next time I will use more herbs within the burger recipe, maybe up it to 1 1/2 cups packed. I really love herbs.

You can also adjust which herbs you use depending on taste preference. If you are up for suggestions, I would keep the mint in the tahini sauce at the least! It gives a soothing coolness and balances beautifully with the nuttiness of the tahini.

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Food

Tortilla Soup

August 4, 2015
final soup

Tortilla soup is something I think I could make in my sleep. Writing up this recipe is harder than the whole process of making the soup! I’ve slowly adapted the recipe over years of making it, but the base has remained essentially the same. The main required ingredients are onion, garlic, cilantro, broth, cumin, and a can of whole-peeled tomatoes. Everything beyond that is up to experimentation and personal preference for additional vegetables, protein, and garnish. You can make a chicken tortilla soup or a vegetable tortilla soup. Lately I’ve been skipping over the tortilla strips, but I’ve included instructions for making your own at the bottom of the post.

I usually start the cooking in a large saute pan, but you can even complete the whole process in a 4-quart pot. You will need a blender for this recipe.

Tortilla Soup
Print Recipe
Fresh, zesty, spicy-if-you-like-it, and oh-so-tasty.
Servings Prep Time
4 bowls 5 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 bowls 5 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Tortilla Soup
Print Recipe
Fresh, zesty, spicy-if-you-like-it, and oh-so-tasty.
Servings Prep Time
4 bowls 5 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 bowls 5 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Ingredients
Main Ingredients
Vegetables and Protein
Garnish
Servings: bowls
Instructions
  1. Prep the base ingredients: Peel and cut the onion into approximately equal slices. Peel and crush garlic cloves. Wash and separate 4 Tbsp cilantro leaves. If using jalapeno, rinse and chop. Remove seeds for a mildly spicy soup, keep them for more heat!
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil (I usually use olive or coconut oil) in a pan over medium heat. Once heated, reduce to medium-low and add the onion, garlic, cilantro, and optional jalapeno. Add a pinch of salt and saute until softened and lightly browned. Stir occasionally. If using olive oil, make sure you don't have the heat too high.
  3. Transfer mixture to blender and add 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. Add half (about a cup and a half) of the whole peeled tomatoes. Reserve the juice and other half of the tomatoes in a container for a future meal. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour tomato mixture into a 4-quart pot (or something big enough to hold at least 8 cups of liquid comfortably, to be safe)  with 1/2 tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. Cook until slightly thickened and darker in color, about 6 minutes. If the mixture starts to spatter everywhere, you can cover it with a lid.
  5. Slowly add 4-6 cups broth (I use vegetable, but you can use chicken if you like) until mixture is desired thickness. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover partially and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Prep your veggies while soup is simmering. Rinse and chop zucchini if using. I pre-cook my corn in a small pan.
  7. After 10 minutes, taste the liquid. Add salt, additional cumin, and/or pepper as needed. Add in vegetables and cook until tender, another 10-15 minutes.
  8. If using beans, rinse until all the bubbles are gone and then drain (see note at end of recipe). Add to soup once veggies are cooked and simmer for another 2 minutes. Make any final spice adjustments with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  9. Chop up 1/4 avocado into each bowl, along with a few leaves of cilantro and cheese (any kind you like will work). Ladle in the soup and top with a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

* Rinsing beans: I like to pour the beans into a metal sieve and place that in a large bowl. Fill with water and gently shake. Pour out some of the water and repeat until bubbles are gone, then drain and set aside.

* Want to add different vegetables? Go for it! Harder vegetables tend to take longer to cook (like carrots, large pieces of broccoli), so add them slightly earlier than softer veggies like squash or zucchini.

* Frying tortilla strips: I call this tortilla soup even though I typically skip over the tortilla part (I can't just call it soup though!). To make your own delicious tortilla strips, cut 3-4 tortillas in half, then slice into 1/4 inch strips. Heat a shallow layer of high heat vegetable oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Try safflower oil. It is safe to use at high heat, has a neutral taste, and less likely to have undergone chemical extraction processes than other high heat oils. Prep a plate with a double layer of paper towels. Once heated (you can test by flicking a few drop of water into the oil and see if it starts to bubble), add a single layer of strips into the pan. Flip one time during cooking, and remove once slightly browned and crispy. They will become done quickly, so pay attention! I've overcooked my fair share of strips. Remove to drain on paper towel plate. Repeat until all strips cooked, adding oil and adjusting heat as needed.

* If you want to make chicken tortilla soup, chop the chicken into small pieces. Similar to the beans, add the chicken at the end of the cooking, and allow to simmer for 4 minutes before serving.

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Food, Life

Mindful Eating – Taking a Mindful Bite

July 28, 2015
bite

How can you start to eat mindfully when you often don’t even notice you are eating mindlessly? It’s as easy as observing your experience for even one bite. Try using this acronym as an easy way to tune into the moment.

Breathe: I’m a huge proponent of checking in with your breath in all moments of life. You can use your breath as a mode of increasing mindfulness of eating in a couple of ways. First, try breathing while you are chewing! Not only will you be more likely to chew your food for longer, you might also notice slight changes in the taste of the food. There are pathways that connect your mouth to your nose, so you can actually smell the food that is in your mouth! Nerves in the nose can detect chemicals in your food and send signals to your brain about what is present. This makes your sense of smell a huge factor in detecting different flavors. Secondly, try to take a breath between each bite. This will help you slow down the speed of your meal and bring you back into the moment if you have been drifting towards mindless eating.

Investigate: Use your senses to observe the dish in front of you. Notice the different colors and shapes, the subtle or vibrant aroma coming from the plate, bowl, or glass. Listen to the sounds of your chewing. Feel the temperature and texture on your tongue and how it changes with each bite.

Taste: The last of the traditional 5 senses, this is the one we most associate with eating. Notice the balance of tastes present in your meal: is the food sweet, salty, sour, or spicy? Is there an element of earthiness? Can you note a shift in taste as you chew the food? Enzymes in your saliva start to break down carbohydrates, so take special note when you are eating foods like bread or grains.

Experience: Enjoy not only the taste of the food, but the full experience of eating! How does the food affect your thoughts, body, and mood? Do you already feel energized after the very first bite, or does the food make you sleepy? Do you find yourself rushing through or savoring the food you enjoy?

Try it out and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading :)

Food

Asian-Inspired Vegetable Noodles

June 23, 2015

By popular demand, I made my ‘Pad Thai’ recipe last night. As a disclaimer, this is nothing like traditional Pad Thai. My husband likes me to call it that, so I’ll do it once for him! Really this is more accurately called “Loosely Asian-Inspired Vegetable ‘Noodles’”. Pad Thai-ish is easier to say though, right? This is a meal I make fairly often, because it is easy to vary depending on what vegetables you have on hand, and it’s a family favorite.

I bought a spiralizer a few months back, so I usually use it to make the noodles for this dish. A spiralizer is a pretty inexpensive and fun tool. $30 can get you a quality version with three different attachments. There is something rewarding about so drastically changing the shape of a food, as you do when turning a zucchini into an incredibly long strand of ‘noodle’! If you don’t have a spiralizer or a desire to get one, you can use any ‘asian-style’ noodle you find in the store. As always, I recommend checking the ingredients on the package and pick one where all ingredients are words you recognize as real foods :).

This time, I used bell peppers, carrots, asparagus, and a leftover stem from some broccoli I used earlier in the week. Keep in mind that you can use any vegetables you want in this dish! I like the color and shape variety I was able to make with this combination last night. Just check out how awesome the slices of broccoli stem look in the pictures above; way cool.

I stir-fried the bell pepper, carrot and broccoli, and steamed the asparagus before adding it to the stir fry pan at the very end. I steamed the asparagus to lower the amount of oil needed for cooking, and because I like it cooked that way. You can simplify the step required by stir-frying it with the rest of the vegetables instead, but might need just a smidge more oil. If you do, the asparagus should go in the first step with the broccoli and carrots if you have room in your wok! If it is too much all together for all of the veggies to have some contact with the wok’s surface, cook in batches.

Without further ado, enjoy! This is a light dish that is nice for summer. I will leave you feeling satisfied without being stuffed. This recipe will make about 3 servings, so adjust the ingredients as desired.

Ingredients (what I used):

For noodles and veggies: For sauce:
2 medium zucchini or squash 3 TBSP organic, no salt added peanut butter
2 carrots, or a handful of baby carrots ½-1 TBSP low-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
Stem from large head of broccoli ½ tsp ground ginger
1 bell pepper ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
Half bunch of asparagus 2 tsp brown sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
2 scallions, white and green portions Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 eggs, scrambled 2-3 TBSP water

Instructions:

  1. Get all of your veggies ready first! I had fun making different shapes with mine last night. I made matchstick cuts with the carrots, medium dice with the bell pepper, cut the asparagus into 3-4 pieces depending on length, and cut the broccoli stem width-wise to get that neat shape.
  2. Spiralize your squash using the smallest setting (you can use zucchini or yellow squash, or one of each) and set aside. If you are using noodles, start to get the water boiling for that.
  3. To make the sauce, place the 3 TBSP peanut butter, ginger, toasted sesame oil, sugar, red pepper flakes (optional) and ½ tablespoon of tamari (or regular soy sauce) in a bowl.  Add 2-3 TBSP water and stire until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. You want the sauce to have a bit of a liquid feel, but still look pretty thick. When you add the sauce to the dish at the end, the heat will thin the sauce out considerably. It will look really weird for a while as your stir, but don’t fear! It just needs some time for the oil and water to mix. Taste the sauce and adjust as needed. You can add more tamari if you want more pungency, a bit more sugar to balance out the salt if the soy is strong, and more pepper flakes if you want it spicier.
  4. If steaming the asparagus like I did, get that started. Place a small amount of water in a pan that fits your steaming basket. Once the water starts to simmer, add the steaming basket with your veggies and cover. Cook until fork pierces, but asparagus still has some crunch, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. At the same time, heat your wok over medium heat. Add 1 TBSP olive oil. Once heated, add carrots and broccoli to the wok and cook for 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Add in the steamed asparagus and cook another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Remove all the veggies to a plate to the side for a moment. Add JUST A TOUCH more oil and cook your eggs. Add the spiralized noodles (or regular noodles if using) to the hot wok and cook for 1-2 minutes until warmed. If you overcook, the noodles will lose all of their water and the nice crunch they have, so err on the side of caution.
  7. Add veggies back into the noodles and eggs and pour in the sauce. Mix well, top with sliced scallions and serve! You can also top with sesame seeds and a drizzle of sriracha if you like.

If you try this out, let me know how it goes, and have fun experimenting!

Food, Life

Mindful Eating – The Seven Hungers

June 16, 2015
DSC_1228

This trimester in school, I am taking my first elective: Mindful Eating and Nourishment. Mindfulness is a truly burgeoning area of focus in the health and wellness industry. Mindfulness training is being applied as part of the treatment plan for many psychological conditions including addiction and anxiety. The basic premise behind mindfulness is to observe the thoughts and the body WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. This means being open to whatever comes up, working to retrain the brain away from its ingrained reactions. Becoming more mindful can greatly improve many areas of your life.

While it is clear there is disorder in the food we as a society are eating, the method in which we are eating is an even bigger problem. Compared to other countries, we as Americans eat faster and with much less awareness and appreciation for what is in front of us. You will hear many people claim to absolutely love food, but if you watch them eat, they don’t actually take the time to savor and enjoy their food. We keep ourselves so busy that we eat and drink while reading, watching T.V., responding to emails, or driving. Instead of staying in its place of importance, the food on our plate takes a backseat to our other concerns. We realize halfway through a meal that we haven’t even tasted our last 10 bites of food.

Because we are eating so rapidly, our body does not have enough time to send us a signal that it is full. If we eat this way often enough, our mind starts to be unable to even understand the signals coming from the body. Eventually, our body might decide to stop sending the signals entirely.

Mindful eating is a huge area of research, so I will introduce just one of the core concepts in this post. According to Jan Chozen Bays, an expert in the mindfulness arena, there are seven hungers at work in our body: eye, nose, mouth, stomach, cell, mind, and heart hunger. For most of us, we have a narrower view of hunger. How would you describe hunger to someone else? Probably you would say something about your stomach feeling empty, or maybe feeling light-headed or cranky? There is actually a whole lot more that goes into it than that! If you have any interest in this topic, Bays’ book, Mindful Eating, is an approachable yet compelling read. It even includes a few brief meditations relating to mindfulness.

Eye Hunger: The first hunger comes from our ability to see our food. You have experienced this any time you finish a meal at a restaurant and feel so full you could burst. But then, the waiter comes by with a tray of meticulously arranged desserts and maybe you could have a little something more. This comes in to play in advertising in a huge way as well. In both cases, it is the beauty of food that is drawing your attention and desire. You can use this to your advantage. Take an extra few seconds to create a nice arrangement of your food when placing it on a plate. Before digging in to your food, spend a moment or two appreciating the visual appeal of what you have in front of you! Notice the different colors, textures, sizes, and shapes of your food. This will increase your enjoyment of your food, and perhaps help you to slow down while eating. If you tend to overeat, slowing down can help you eat less.

Nose Hunger: We have probably all heard how important your sense of smell is to the taste of your food. You’ve experienced this fact every time you have had any congestion from a cold or allergies. Food seems more bland and less enjoyable. Scents can also be tightly tied to memories from your past. Foods that we have enjoyed in the past will become associated with their smells. This is why the aroma of freshly baked cookies or bread, freshly brewed coffee, or sizzling bacon can draw you into a restaurant or kitchen even if you did not feel hungry before.

Mouth Hunger: Mouth hunger encompasses the taste, texture, and temperature of our foods. We each have different preferences: sweet or salty, spicy or mild, smooth or crunchy. The food industry definitely knows about this hunger, pumping foods full of salt, fat, and sugar to overload your taste buds with sensation and keep you coming back for more. These types of processed foods are also the ones you eat quickly, not even paying attention to the subtleties of each bite. To satisfy mouth hunger, slow it down! Actually chew your food, feel the variety of different textures present. Notice how the flavors change as you chew each bite. If you keep this up for the entire duration of your meal, the mouth will be satisfied. If you only stay mindful for the first bite, and wolf down the rest, the mouth will want more and more.

Stomach Hunger: Stomach hunger may feel like an emptiness, constriction, or a grinding and gnawing feeling. It can be hard to ignore! Interestingly enough, this sensation does not necessarily mean that our body needs food. Our stomach can become conditioned by the habits of our eating. If you eat every single day at the same time, your stomach will begin to react in this way out of expectations. You may also have stomach pangs due to anxiety or stress. Stress eating can lead to guilt, creating more stress, and more eating! Quite the vicious cycle. While your stomach can mislead you into eating when you don’t really need to, you also don’t want to completely ignore the messages it sends. This is where it becomes important to check in with the other hungers, to read the full message from the body.

Cell Hunger: I will admit, this is one of the more difficult hungers to access. It requires really looking deeply into the body, and is a skill we tend to lose as we fall into mindless eating. The cells may tell you they are hungry in many ways. Headaches, dizziness, sudden exhaustion, or irritability are common hints. If you are deficient in protein or fats, you might get intense cravings for a steak or a big spoon of peanut butter. A fun exercise to try out is a simple meditation on cellular hunger using a small item of food (a strawberry, a raisin, a small piece of dark chocolate, etc). Sit quietly, eyes closed, and see how the cells of the body feel in the moment. After scanning for a few breaths, place the small food in your mouth and chew slowly. Notice if your cells start to change their tune! Do you feel any sensations in the brain, stomach or skin?

Mind Hunger: Now this is a strong force! Our minds are often the force driving our behavior. With the plethora of information about nutrition, the ‘should’ and ‘should not’s’  flowing through our thoughts are abundant. Due to this, mind hunger is often made up of good vs. bad. The problem with this way of thinking is that research is always changing. What is good for you one day leads to disease the next day. What is good for one person is completely different from what is good for another! Jan Chozen Bays mentions the Buddhist idea of the middle way, suggesting that finding a path between the two extremes will help to maintain sanity. Once again, incorporating all of the hungers and truly listening to what your individual body is asking for can make a powerful improvement in your life.

Heart Hunger: Is there a food you always ate with family growing up, one that still brings back a wave of nostalgia? These ‘comfort foods’ are one basis for heart hunger. Heart hunger can also be a desire to fill some perceived hole in life. We eat to ease suffering in the form of loneliness, boredom, anxiety or grief. Our heart longs for intimacy, whether it is with another person, an animal, nature, or art. Notice when you are eating due to some perceived sense of lack. If the rest of your hungers are telling you food is not needed in the moment, see if you can find another way to nourish your heart. Call a friend, take a walk outside, draw a picture, listen to your favorite song. If you do decide to eat, do so slowly. Truly try to embrace love through the experience.

If you made it this far, kudos! I know this is a long post, but the seven hungers are incredible!! Try checking in with these different aspects of hunger, and let me know how it goes in the comments below! Since starting this class, I already feel like I have a vastly expanded appreciation for the many ways food fuels me, body and soul.

Food

Curry Sweet Potatoes with Lemon-Parsley Snap Peas

June 8, 2015

This recipe is the result of the final project for my cooking lab! The goal was to create a recipe where you substituted out the salt for something else, like spices or a salt substitute. We all need some amount of salt in our diets for our bodies to function properly (without sodium your nerves can’t fire, your heart can’t beat, and your cells can’t create new energy!), but a lot of foods served in restaurants or pre-packaged are overloaded with low-quality salt. Being able to find an alternative in your home cooking can help to balance out the effects of eating outside of the house. Finding replacements for salt can be even more important for those with certain medical conditions like hypertension. The recipe below uses curry powder and a salt substitute called gomasio. If you are going to be using salt instead, I recommend picking up a higher quality, less processed version than the typical iodized salt. The generic salt sold in large quantities in the supermarket is appealing because it is cheap and will last a long time. The down side is that it has added chemicals to make it free-flowing, and has been completely stripped of the minerals found in natural sea salts, like calcium, magnesium and potassium.

As a part of this week’s assignment, I made my own curry powder using 2 teaspoons coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin and turmeric, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and cardamom, and ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon and ginger. I based this combination off of a few recipes I found online, since this was my first attempt making it! You can try making your own version, or pick up a pre-made mixture at the store. I also made a salt-substitute called gomasio using raw sesame seeds and a touch of Himalayan pink salt. If you have some sesame seeds sitting around, this is a very easy recipe to make, and adds a nice crunch to dishes. Once made, it will stay fresh for 6-8 weeks in the fridge. To make a small batch of gomasio, take 1/2 cup of raw sesame seeds and toast them in a saute pan over medium heat until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn them, since that will not be a good taste! Transfer the toasted seeds to either a food processor or use a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds up. You can leave some intact to add texture. Add a small amount of salt (a little less then 1 teaspoon should be plenty) and use as needed!

Now on to the recipe! We have roasted sweet potatoes, snap peas (you can easily substitute another vegetable here, like asparagus, green beans, snow peas or brussel sprouts), and eggs. I also made an easy tea using fresh mint and lemon peel. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 medium organic sweet potatoes 1 organic lemon ½ teaspoon cumin
2 cups snap peas, stems trimmed 2 eggs Gomasio, or salt, to taste
1 green onion chopped, white/green parts separate ½ avocado, sliced For tea:
1 large clove garlic, minced ½ cup parsley leaves Mint (handful of leaves)
1 ½ tablespoon olive oil 2 teaspoons curry powder Honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375℉.
  2. Scrub sweet potato, peel, and cut into ½ inch cubes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons curry powder in medium mixing bowl and combine.
  3. Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook for 25-35 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Fill 4 quart pot halfway with lightly salted water and bring to a boil.
  5. Pour snap peas into boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, until bright green. Remove and transfer to ice bath immediately to stop the cooking.
  6. Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in non-stick pan. Cook white portion of onion for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add in drained, cooled snap peas and heat until warm. Remove from heat onto serving plate.
  7. Top snap peas with squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, green part of onion, minced parsley, and gomasio (to taste) before serving. ***squeeze the rest of your lemon and place juice in fridge for future use. Save the peel for tea***
  8. To make tea, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add in a handful (or two) of mint leaves and the peel from whole lemon. Boil for five minutes. Strain and keep warm until serving. Add honey as needed.
  9. Right before meal is ready to eat, re-heat non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Cook eggs to preference (sunny side-up, over easy/medium/hard, scrambled).
  10. Roll one edge of avocado slice in cumin to lightly dust.
  11. Arrange snap peas over sweet potatoes, and top with egg and avocado. Voila!
Food

Lemon-Orange Ginger Cookies

May 28, 2015

Alright, I have a confession. Cookies are my favorite. Since I love cookies SO MUCH, I don’t make them often as it is a hazard to have in the house.  When I saw this week’s recipe options for my cooking class included a cookie, I had to try it out. This week’s theme in class is finding ways to reduce processed sugar, so this recipe is made with a sugar alternative: maple syrup!  Maple syrup comes in many different shades, and sometimes you will see a ‘grade’ on the label. Grade A syrup is taken from the tree earlier in the season, and will be lighter in color and more delicate in flavor. Grade B is taken later, will be darker in color, and have a more robust maple flavor. It is also said to contain a higher mineral content. For those of you keeping track, maple syrup contains zinc, manganese, potassium, iron and calcium. This is one of the added benefits of using maple syrup over highly processed white sugar (just don’t go guzzling it down and think that it is healthy!). Which type of syrup you use depends upon your preference for flavor. I tend to gravitate towards grade B or darker grade A syrups, because I find that I need to use less to get the same taste result I’m going for. 

P.S. The cookies are also vegan and gluten-free.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups almond meal/flour

2 TBSP ground ginger

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup grape seed or melted coconut oil (I used coconut)

*1/2 cup maple syrup

*2 TBSP lemon zest

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine almond flour, ginger, and baking soda in large bowl.
  3. Mix oil, maple syrup, and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. Scoop 1 TBSP of dough onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The cookies won’t get much bigger, so you won’t need to space them out very much.
  5. Bake until tops start to crack, 8-10 minutes.
  6. While you wait, get excited. These cookies have a light crunch on the outside and stay delightfully moist on the inside. They would go great with tea or coffee, or on their own!!

*The recipe calls for 1/2 cup maple syrup, but that seemed heavy-handed to me. I probably used about 3/8 of a cup, and the cookies are still plenty sweet. Next time I would try cutting it to 1/4 cup to see how that goes. The only other change I made was with the lemon zest. A few months ago, visiting Williams-Sonoma, I picked up some dried orange peel. I had not found a way to incorporate it into a dish yet, so I chose these cookies for the first use! I still used 1 TBSP lemon zest, but used 1 TBSP orange peel as well.

 

Food

Roasted Root Vegetables + String Beans w/ Shallots

May 28, 2015

As a part of my Master’s program, there are a series of required cooking labs. The goal here is to learn cooking methods that will help future clients prepare healthier dishes. This week, we are learning about methods to decrease salt and sugar content in foods. One way to decrease salt is by using fresh herbs or dried spices. Herbs, like basil or rosemary, are the leafy part of a plant, including leaves, stems, and flowers. Spices, like cumin or coriander, are  obtained from any other part of the plant (including the seeds and roots). Both herbs and spices have wonderful flavors and aromas. By incorporating them into meals, you can start to cut back on the amount of salt needed to please your taste buds. They are also great at adding taste without calories. Sugar substitutes are plentiful on the market today, but these recipes below will just touch on the use of vegetables as a source of sweetness.

Without further ado, here are two of my favorite vegetable recipes from this week! The first is roasted root vegetables. Root veggies have a natural sweetness to them, which is pleasing to the palate. Rosemary is used as a salt-limiter. The second recipe is string beans with caramelized shallots and garlic. The caramelized shallots add a smoky sweetness to the dish. The addition of garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest to the final product leads to a truly harmonious blend of fat, acid, sweetness, and salt (I want these beans again, right now). These four elements (lovingly abbreviated as FASS in my class) are important to balance to create a well-rounded taste.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

*2 medium carrots

1 red potato

1/2 acorn squash

3 medium beets

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, sea salt, 1-2 TBSP olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Peel the beets. Wash and scrub the carrots, potato, and squash.
  3. For the acorn squash, cut in half, remove the seeds, then chop into medium pieces.
  4. Chop the rest of the veggies into medium sized pieces. Do your best to keep the sizes about the same to ensure even cooking.
  5. Place all veggies in bowl, drizzle with olive oil and mix in rosemary and salt (to taste). Stir to coat evenly with oil.
  6. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Cook until fork-tender (anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on oven and size of chop).

The great part about this recipe is the variability you can introduce on your own. You can use sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, acorn squash, butternut squash, even turnips and onion. This is a nice recipe for large groups, as it can easily be adapted to serve many. Root veggies are filling!

*One added benefit of buying organic produce is you don’t have to worry about peeling your vegetables since the risk of pesticides on the skin is not present. Even with your acorn squash! The skin is edible and adds a nice color to the dish.

String Beans w/ Shallots, Scallions, and Rosemary

Adapted from my cooking class, which adapted from Rebecca Katz’  “One Bite at a Time”

Disclaimer: So. Tasty.

Ingredients:

String beans (1 pound, or however many you want to cook!), tails removed

2 TBSP shallot, minced (these have a nice delicate taste, but you can substitute yellow onion if needed)

– I also used a scallion in my recipe, as it needed to be used

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp rosemary leaves, chopped

1/4 tsp lemon zest

Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Fill 4 quart pan 3/4 full with water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add string beans to boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, until bright green.
  3. Transfer beans to ice bath to stop cooking.
  4. Heat saute pan over medium heat and add oil. Once heated, add chopped shallots (or onion of choice) plus pinch of salt*. Saute until golden, about 3 minutes (longer if using yellow onion). Stir often to avoid burning.
  5. Add garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
  6. Deglaze the pan** by adding 1/4 cup of water. Once the water evaporates, add string beans to mixture and make sure the beans are done.
  7. Add rosemary, lemon zest, and lemon. Serve!!

*Adding a pinch of salt to your onions and oil will help to draw the water out of the onion. This in turn draws some of the sugars out, facilitating the browning.

**Deglazing the pan is a great trick you can use in other dishes too! Adding a small amount of water will help to loosen up the tiny bits of food that may have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. These little bits have a lot of great flavor you don’t want to miss out on! This also makes it easier to clean your pan at the end of the meal 😀

Food

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

May 13, 2015

I am a big proponent of listening to the body when it comes to finding the right food for the current moment. Because of this, I eat a primarily vegetarian diet. I have found that eating meat on a regular basis does not sit well with  my digestive system, and I never have enough room to eat all of the vegetables and whole grains that my body loves and hungers for.

Most often when I cook at home I keep the vegetables in their original form, not wanting to mess around with what nature worked so hard to create! Every once in a while though, it’s fun to do something different. I have been wanting to play around with making some veggie ‘burgers’ for the past couple of weeks, so this weekend I decided to try it out. Since this was only the second time I was experimenting with the task, I followed a recipe I found from a food blog called Cookie and Kate. Here is a link to the original recipe: http://cookieandkate.com/2013/sweet-potato-black-bean-veggie-burgers/

I won’t rewrite the whole recipe here since it is not my own and the link is right up above, but basically you bake a couple of sweet potatoes then remove the peel, cook a small amount of grain (this recipe called for millet, but quinoa is similar option that can be substituted), and mash that all together with some spices, cilantro, red onion, and black beans. Finally, you sprinkle on some ground up oats (acts like a flour) and stir until everything sticks together. The patties FOR SURE are easier to work with if they have some time in the fridge to stick together. The final step is to pan-fry the patties for a couple of minutes per side, aiming for a light browning and crisping. I used coconut oil for this recipe and it didn’t seem to affect the flavor much.

The process is more time-consuming than meals I typically make, especially given all the steps that require cool-down time, but I was able to freeze half a dozen patties for future meals. Definitely worth it. As a huge fan of sweet potatoes, I thoroughly enjoyed the final product. In retrospect, I think I would have added some finely diced jalapeño to give the patties a fresh tasting kick. I did not use as much oil as recommended for the first couple of rounds of  pan-frying because I was worried they would turn out too greasy. After increasing the amount for the final batch, I can say it was probably worth it. The increased amount of oil gave the final product a nice crunch on the outside to balance out the incredibly smooth interior.

To add in some more veggies, I prepared a simple side salad. I had some beets to finish up, so I decided on a beet, green apple, goat cheese combination. After scrubbing and trimming the roots and stems off of the beets, I brought them to a boil, just covered with water. The beets simmered for about 25 minutes until a fork pierced the skin easily, then I drained off the water and set the beets aside to cool down. After they were cool enough to handle, the skin peeled off easily and I diced them into easy-to-eat pieces. I cut a quarter of a green apple into matchstick slices, added some diced beets and goat cheese, and topped it with homemade raspberry vinaigrette. The dressing mixed with the beets turned the whole salad a beautiful pink (one of my favorite parts of having beets in a recipe!!). I made just enough raspberry vinaigrette for about 5 servings of salad, because I don’t like for it to go to waste. For a small portion, just mix 1/8 cup raspberry wine vinegar, 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp mustard, and sweetener to taste (I used agave nectar, but maple syrup or plain sugar can be used as well) in a small jar. Cover the jar with a lid and shake! Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days. The mustard acts as an emulsifier, breaking up the oil droplets and helping the oil and vinegar combine more easily.

Sending out a special thanks to my husband for forming the patties and taking most of the pictures, and to our cats; Penny for being a trouble maker and Jillyboo for staying out of the way and being crazy cute. Let me know if you try out the recipe too, or have had any experiences making veggie burgers at home! I will keep experimenting on my own now to see what kind of combinations I can come up with. I am thinking a curry-chickpea burger sounds like a good next step…stay tuned.

Food

First CSA half-share!

April 29, 2015

We signed up for a weekly half-share from a company called Relay Foods for the Spring and Summer, and I picked up the first week’s groceries yesterday. There is a pick up station conveniently located a 15-minute walk away. This week our half share consists of a big bunch of curly green kale, two bunches each of bibb and green lettuce, some fresh green pea shoots, three sweet potatoes, beautiful green onions, a small carton of radishes, and an assortment of oyster and shiitake mushrooms. The produce comes from a variety of local farms and will change week to week as new veggies come into season. I had to do a little research to see the best way to store and use the radishes and green pea shoots, but both were very easy to work with!

Not wanting anything to go to waste, I cooked up a bunch of the veggies last night. I did a quick stir fry of some thinly sliced radish, green onion, and pea shoots, separately stir fried some mushroom (chopped small so the husband wouldn’t notice!!), and mixed it all together with some nice wild black rice. For taste I added some toasted sesame oil, tahini, and a dash of soy sauce. We had a side salad to go along with it, since we have lettuce for days!!!

I’m already looking forward to what the future weeks will bring, and I can’t wait to eat up these sweet potatoes.