Category Archives: recipes

Wellness Wednesday: Tropical Smoothie

The upper Midwest had a fluke winter warm up this past weekend for a bit of spring/summer tease.

However, typically this is the time of year where we are starving for a little “paradise”.  Therefore, it could be the perfect time to get creative in the kitchen.

Frozen fruit can be a great way to leverage powerful phytonutrients into the diet, particularly across times of the year where seasonable options are not available fresh.  A key to healthful smoothies is balance.

I have found that tropical fruit combos, although sweet, can be used in moderation to balance greens such as spinach or super green based blends.

Including options such as chia or hemp seeds and a spoonful of coconut butter, avocado, or nut butter will add compounds such as omega 3 and healthful fats.

A combination that I find most appealing is as follows:

  • 1 bag of organic tropical frozen fruit blend, 16 oz (typically this includes pineapple, banana, strawberries, and mango)
  • 2 handfuls of raw spinach (often available through hoop house suppliers in winter)
  • 1 spoonful raw greens powder
  • Approx. 1-2 tbsp coconut butter
  • Approx. 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Approx. 2 tsp cinnamon
  • If desired, a splash of well-sourced nut milk (liquid from the fruit may be sufficient or water can be used)

Blend to desired consistency.

***NOTE:  The above recipe may not be suitable for all dietary plans particularly those considerate of food combining.

Wellness Wednesday: Sweetheart Quinoa Breakfast

A few years ago I had a friendly waitress let me in on a little secret; cook quinoa directly in the coconut milk for “breakfast quinoa”.  Add some seasoning such as cinnamon and, voila, a simple breakfast substitute.

Well sourced quinoa (often from fair trade channels in countries such as Bolivia) is good for a.m. protein, at 8 grams per cup.  It is also a “complete protein” which refers to the whole form and that fact that it consists of an adequate proportion of essential amino acids.  Appropriate protein and healthful fat sources incorporated into the a.m. meal is thought to help support appropriate hormonal regulation through out the day.

To make your sweetheart (and you yourself are also a sweetheart!) a special Valentine’s day themed breakfast, consider making this and adding antioxidant rich dark cherries, raspberries, or strawberries.  Although not in season for all this time of year, organic berries can typically be found in the frozen food section or freeze dried fruits have seemed to pick up in popularity.

I would also suggest cacao nips and coconut flakes!

*Note:  Freeze dried fruits are great for travel and not candied in the way dried fruit options are.

How do you Spaghetti Squash?

This is an engagement post.  Please comment.

Personally, I love to make a roasted tomato-garlic-basil base with an arugula saute layered over pre-baked spaghetti squash.  Using this method, you can carve the squash out of the shell onto a plate or simply spoon out the sauce and arugula directly over 1/2 of the cooked squash and scoop it all out like it’s a big bowl itself.

A few other notables that have caught my eye;

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein by Little Bits Of –  http://littlebitsof.com/2014/10/spaghetti-squash-chow-mein/

Spaghetti Squash Black Bean Bowls by THE glowing FRIDGE – http://www.theglowingfridge.com/spaghetti-squash-black-bean-bowls/#_a5y_p=5905804

Spaghetti Squash Hashbrowns by The Honour System – http://thehonoursystem.com/2015/03/06/spaghetti-squash-hash-browns-vegan-gluten-free/

Wellness Wednesday: Time for Curry!!!

This has been one of the most popular recipe requests by my friends and colleagues.

Many recipes for curry have been developed.  Although this is not a known fact, I imagine the variations have originated out of different villages across the various areas in which it curry, as the dish we now know it, was popularized.

In my brief research, I learned that the term “curry” may be more “Americanized” (or influenced by regions such as Britain) to designate a certain dish itself versus a cuisine type.  More can be found from the links at the bottom of this post.

Similar to many culinary connoisseurs before me have done, I have taken the guidance of others, tried it in the kitchen, and adjusted to develop my craft.

Although I experiment with different variations and adjust for the occasion, my most common go to is Red, Spicy, & Basil Vegetable!

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As many of you may already know, I am a conscientious cook.  My goals are healthful (nutrient dense and balanced), non- or minimally processed, additive free, eco-/sustainable, and, when possible, locally sourced.  Of course operating in this way is a craft in itself.

For curry, I have settled on culinary coconut cream (milk).  Right now I know of one who makes it; So Delicious Dairy Free.  The option isn’t 100% in line with the standards above, but its the best I can find with the most desired outcome for consistency.  It comes in a small carton;  http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/culinary-coconut-milk.

Otherwise, I rely on organic spices and produce.  (Check out Mountain Rose Herbs for a beautiful array of bulk, organic spices!)

This recipe can be scaled up.  I find the measurements below make 3-4 hearty dishes.

  • 1 carton of culinary coconut milk
  • 1-2 tbs of coconut oil
  • approx. 1/4 C vegetable broth
  • 3 tbs paprika
  • 1 tbs each turmeric, cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, & red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tbsp dried ginger (can use grated fresh if preferred/available)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of salt, pink Himalayan or sea salt
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced or diced
  • 4-5 fresh garlic cloves, minced or chopped
  • 1-2 cups of chopped fresh vegetables of choice (Really, any can work, but I prefer broccoli, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms most.  Sugar snap peas are also a commonly used option for this style of dish.  A mix of hot & mild peppers is in the photo.  I have also been known to thrown in other assortments that I need to use up, such as a turnip, radish, or handful of spinach at the end of the cooking process).
  • 1-2 healthy handfuls of fresh basil, chop if needed
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh parsley, curly preferred and chopped as needed
  • 2-3 fresh green onions or chives, finely chopped
  • 1 C dried quinoa (which will be cooked according to your preference)

This may seem like a lot of spices and herbs, but trust me, spice makes the dish!  I recommend pre-measuring the dried spices and salt out in a small bowl, mixing them together in advance.  Then, they will all be added in one step during the cooking process.  Another option is to make a curry paste with the fresh garlic minced and dried spices.  This version will include a healthy dose of olive oil which I often skip for this recipe version.  If possible, I avoid heating olive oil.

Start with a larger pot and the burner on low.  I have a gas stove and need to use the absolute lowest setting.  Add at least 1 tbs of the coconut oil and allow to melt.  Then, add the onions.  Don’t allow the coconut oil to get too hot or it will pop when you add the onions.  Add the remainder of the coconut oil as needed.

Allow the onions to soften approximately 40-50%.  They will just be starting to turn glass like in appearance.  At this point, you will want to stage your vegetables by desired cook time (including the fresh garlic).  For example, carrots take longer than broccoli and peppers.  This is also when to start adding the vegetable broth.  Adjust as needed, but you shouldn’t need much because the fresh vegetables will have their own moisture.  Use just enough to keep the mixture moist and not charred or dry.  Stir periodically and cover as needed.

Once the vegetables are approximately 75% tender, you can add the spices and coconut milk.  Stir!  Allow the mixture to begin to bubble slightly, then turn the burner off and add the fresh Basil, Parsley, and Green Onions.  Put the lid on for a 1-3 minutes, then you are ready to serve over the cooked quinoa.

For an Autumn twist, swap out the quinoa base for cooked squash.  If using squash for a base, you might also sweeten the pot with 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1/4 tbsp each of nutmeg & clove.  Some also prefer to add chick peas or lentils.

The cooking process should take approximately 20 minutes or less.  The variance will be due to your choice of vegetables.

Ladle out the curry and vegetables over your base to serve.  Sit back, enjoy!

 

A little more on “curry” –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/24432750

http://www.indepthinfo.com/curry/history.shtml

Pickles

Last year I made my own pickles for the first time with a classic option of cucumbers and, for a twist, the stems of rainbow chard.  This year, I expanded my skills and tried a different method.  I also made my own sauerkraut.

Many pickle recipes (which can be applied to more than just cucumbers) call for a brine in which some combination of vinegar, water, sugar, and seasoning are heated in a saucepan, then poured over the vegetables in a jar and, possibly, combined with fresh dill.  However, a heated, brine version may be more of personal preference versus actual necessity.

This year I tried a cold method.  Many Pinterest posts share various recipes, but essentially it is a combination of water, vinegar, garlic, black pepper, other seasoning of choice, and, in my case, fresh dill and cucumbers.  I decided to play with 3 variations;

  1.  White Vinegar
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar
  3. 50/50 Apple Cider & White Vinegars

So…  which was the winner???  

Although all three options came out well and were ready for consumption within 24-48 hours, I leaned toward the white vinegar or the 50/50 combo.  Although, I certainly don’t want to discourage the Apple cider vinegar option due to the health benefits it can provide.

I’m not certain yet if this method works well for sweet pickles (“bread & butter” style), but I was happy to find that the cold method worked great for dill pickles.  It’s much easier and faster than heating up the brine in a saucepan.  My bowl below equaled three 12 oz mason jars.  Next time I will know to make more with my favorite method!

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Weekend Skillets

I wanted to devote a post to my latest love…  weekend skillets.

What is this? you might ask.  Well, quite frankly it’s a food smorgasbord that a little extra a.m. time on the weekends allows for.  Basically, you chop up, season, and saute a host of different vegetables to pair with eggs and/or other protein rich source (fish, other meats, or something plant based such as edamame or mushrooms), optional healthy grain or seed sources, such as quinoa, and condiments like hot sauce or salsa.  Top this off with a healthy fat, such as a sliced avocado, and there you have it, a skillet breakfast at it’s best.  Sometimes, depending on flavor combination, I even drizzle a little cold olive oil on top of the finished dish for added savor.  Another skillet option is to combine a cooked base with a topping of fresh, raw ingredients.

As part of my personal protocol, I have been focusing on a concept PFFC balance (protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrates).  Conceptually, this acronym serves as a guiding principle for planning meals, at a macro-nutrient level.  The goal is to apply the principle to each meal and snack through out the day.  When food options are appropriately selected, such as dark leafy greens for the complex carbohydrate category, micronutrient and fiber intake goals can also be achieved.

The science suggests that following an appropriate PFFC balance across meals and snacks throughout the day can contribute to better hormonal balance and blood sugar stabilization.  Therefore, it is further supportive of optimal health though nutrition.  The skillet presents an easy way to make this happen.  I have also learned that if I eat this in the morning, I can go most all day and only need to rely on snacks.  For my fitness and social activity routines on weekends, this is really helpful.

I found the break down PFC Balanced Eating Part 1:  What is PFC? from Dietitian Cassie clear and easy to apply (2016).

The skillet makes planning PFFC easy.  Not only is it fun to prepare and eat, it also allows me to partake in a fantastic life hack!  It might come as no surprise to you that I am fanatic about brown bag lunches.  Not only does this help me stay on track with my nutritional goals, it is a cost-effective measure.  As a customer of a regional CSA (community supported agriculture) share, I am even more committed to coming up with my own food preparation tactics as well as recipes.  What I have learned when making the skillet, I can easily perform extra chopping to be used in other recipes.  Previously I had been committing a pretty significant block of time on Sundays to do all my weekly food preparation.  However, the addition of a skillet breakfast on Saturdays allows me to split of my prep time and has ultimately saved time over all.

Dietitian Cassie also addresses ways to budget this approach to eating on the Healthy Simple Life website, PFC on the CHEAP part 1 (2014).

REFERENCES

Healthy Simple Life. (2014). Retrieved from PFC on the CHEAP part 1: http://healthysimplelife.com/pfc-on-the-cheap-part-1/

PFC Balanced Eating Part 1: What is PFC? (2016). Retrieved from Dietician Cassie. Real Talk. Real Food. Real Life.: http://www.dietitiancassie.com/pfc-balanced-eating-part-1-what-is-pfc/

More Purple… Recipe Share: Purple Power Salad

If you have noticed a recurring theme of “purple” in my blog, this is no coincidence.  Both red and purple have presented themselves as signature colors in my life.  When I was a little girl, I had to have the pastel lavender option for various toys and products, such as an 80’s style tape recorder “boom box”.  In college, it just so happened I joined a sorority with national colors purple and white, therefore, continuing the theme of purple in my life.  Aside from fashion and home accessories, I love to find the color in nature.  Turns out food is a great place for it (see my 2015 blog post “Blue-Purple”).

…and so, without further delay, another recipe share.  Again, this is inspired by Sarah Britton.  However, as we begin to pull ourselves out of winter and think about Spring, I love to start thinking about salads again.  This one has become a go-to in my life and will, undoubtedly, become a classic as time goes forward.  In addition, the spice and herb focus to the dressing not only brings about a flavorful punch, it is a savvy way to pack in a little extra nutrition.  I highly recommend to try at least a small amount of cayenne pepper, even if you think you don’t like a hot spice.  The cinnamon combination creates a nice balance.  One adjustment I have done in the past is blend figs into the dressing itself.  At certain times of the year, I can find organic green figs in the frozen section for a reasonable price.  Black figs (or Turkish as I most prefer) can be a little pricey.

Enjoy!

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/08/purple-power-salad-for-a-picnic/

Purple Power Picnic Salad

 

Umami

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a Rick Bayless cooking demo in Chicago, IL.  Intertwining story telling while performing a demo is certainly a skill that he has developed.  Beyond the recipe, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about his perspective on food.

Although his cooking style is different than mine, he shares many of the same ideas in which I embrace including, but not limited to, learning methods from other cultures and seeking understanding of the food itself before taking on any culinary endeavors.  In addition, he spoke of being knowledgeable and considerate for the sensory system.

One of my graduate level nutrition classes, placed great emphasis on this as well.  It was in this course that I was first introduced to the concept of umami, the fifth taste, which also embodies what we have come to know as “savory”. Besides salt, sweet, sour, and bitter, foods that elicit umami are often viewed as superior in some way.  Underlying this perspective is a unique interplay within our human biochemical pathways adding further scientific support as to why humans favor the umami taste.  However, essentially, umami contributes to making a prepared dish palatable.  (It’s also a very fun word to pronounce out loud).

Additional information on umami can be retrieved from the resources at the bottom of this post.

On the day of the demo, Bayless incorporated a dish including autumn squash and pork to illustrate umami.  From my understanding, it is the smoked component of the pork that would elicit the umami response.  Personally, I do not eat pork.  Therefore, upon his suggestion, I tried  a version of the recipe with mushrooms.  I certainly can not take credit for the creative vision and wonderful turn out of this dish.  It is all a credit to Bayless.  However, I love to share innovative food concepts and, therefore, am summarizing my take on the recipe.

First, I started with the salsa like sauce by blending pan-roasted onions, tomatillos, and whole garlic cloves.

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I added a little bit of Co-Op hot sauce to the tomatillo blend which gave it an orange-like hue.

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Then, I sauteed the mushrooms in coconut oil.

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With the squash, I had a little help from my CSA who has been sending us an assortment of frozen, pre-prepared vegetables to fill in the lower production of fresh items during the winter months.  #TomatoMountain.  Therefore, I simply heated this in a pan over low-heat.  Finally, layered the items to be served and topped with pumpkin seeds as my non-dairy substitute/swap to cojita cheese.

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Even though I may have selected a slightly too hot version of Co-Op sauce, I still lived up every bite of the dish.

Without question, it embodies umami!

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Resources for Umami:

Beauchamp, G. (2009). Sensory and Receptor Responses to Umami: An Overview of Pioneering Work. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 723S-727S.

Chaudhari, N. P. (2009). Taste Receptors for Umami: The Case for Multiple Receptors. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 738S-742S.

Curtis, R. (2009). Umami and the Foods of Classical Antiquity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(3), 712S-718S.

De Araujo, I. K. (2003). Representation of Umami Taste in the Human Brain. Journal of Neurophysiology, 90(1), 313-319.

DuBois, G. (2004). Unraveling the Biochemistry of Sweet and Umami Tastes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(39), pp. 13972-13973.

Lindermann, B. (2000). A Taste for Umami. Nature Neuroscience, 3, 99-100.

Lindermann, B. N. (2002). The Discovery of Umami. Chemical Senses, 27(9), 843-844.

Mau, J. (2005). The Umami Taste of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 7(1/2), 119.

Yamaguchi, S. (1998). Basic Properties of Umami and Its Effects of Food Flavor. Food Reviews International, 14(2-3), 139-176.

Yamaguchi, S. N. (1998). What is Umami? Food Reviews International, 14(2-3), 123-138.

Yamaguchi, S. N. (2000, April 1). Umami and Food Palatability.  The Journal of Nutrition, 130(4), 921S-926S.

Other Mentions:

Tomato Mountain Farm, Brooklyn, WI, http://www.tomatomountain.com

Co-Op Sauce, Chicago, IL, http://www.coopsauce.com

 

Recipe share by Sarah Britton – Winter Rainbow Panzanella | My New Roots

One of my favorite food blogs is My New Roots by Sarah Britton, Holistic Nutritionist & CNP.  Fairly recently, she also published a book and last week I discovered it in Whole Foods.

Her work is near to perfect synergy between flavor, nutrition, and food artistry.  She pays special attention to varied food availability or dietary protocols and often provides alternative suggestions.  I relate well to this approach.

Earlier this year, I saved the recipe below to Pinterest.  As we dive into winter, I am reminded of it.  So far my winter CSA has been most regularly dividing up orange and purple carrots, turnips, radishes, a hearty variety of spinach, and a few beets.  #tomatomountain  I can’t help but see making a version of this dish in my near future!

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2015/03/winter-rainbow-panzanella/